"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

~ Niccolo Machiavelli, historian and writer

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good On Him

Although I cannot for the life of me find the story in the digital world *, I heard on the ATV Evening News tonight that a man in the New Glasgow area has brought a lawsuit against the Province in regard to the lack of sign language interpreters available to the deaf population during emergency situations. I believe the gentleman's name was Fiet, but please forgive me if I'm wrong.

At any rate, this person, who has been deaf all their life, had a stroke and ended up in a Halifax hospital, where he asked for a sign language interpreter so he could communicate with the doctor.  Lo and behold, there were none in the land!

And to think I thought we had well and truly dealt with this issue back in 1997!

Because when the Supreme Court of Canada speaks, really, we all should listen:
71 If there are circumstances in which deaf patients cannot communicate effectively with their doctors without an interpreter, how can it be said that they receive the same level of medical care as hearing persons?  Those who hear do not receive communication as a distinct service.  For them, an effective means of communication is routinely available, free of charge, as part of every health care service.  In order to receive the same quality of care, deaf persons must bear the burden of paying for the means to communicate with their health care providers, despite the fact that the system is intended to make ability to pay irrelevant.  Where it is necessary for effective communication, sign language interpretation should not therefore be viewed as an “ancillary” service.  On the contrary, it is the means by which deaf persons may receive the same quality of medical care as the hearing population.

72 Once it is accepted that effective communication is an indispensable component of the delivery of medical services, it becomes much more difficult to assert that the failure to ensure that deaf persons communicate effectively with their health care providers is not discriminatory. In their effort to persuade this Court otherwise, the respondents and their supporting interveners maintain that s. 15(1) does not oblige governments to implement programs to alleviate disadvantages that exist independently of state action. Adverse effects only arise from benefit programs, they aver, when those programs exacerbate the disparities between the group claiming a s. 15(1) violation and the general population. They assert, in other words, that governments should be entitled to provide benefits to the general population without ensuring that disadvantaged members of society have the resources to take full advantage of those benefits.

 ~  ~   ~  ~

95 I have found that where sign language interpreters are necessary for effective communication in the delivery of medical services, the failure to provide them constitutes a denial of s. 15(1) of the Charter and is not a reasonable limit under s. 1. Section 24(1) of the Charter provides that anyone whose rights under the Charter have been infringed or denied may obtain “such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances”. In the present case, the appropriate and just remedy is to grant a declaration that this failure is unconstitutional and to direct the government of British Columbia to administer the Medical and Health Care Services Act (now the Medicare Protection Act) and the Hospital Insurance Act in a manner consistent with the requirements of s. 15(1) as I have described them.
So I think that should just about take care of that, don't you?

* I would be grateful to anyone who could find me an internet reference to the story.

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