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Patient Privacy May Trump Deaf Companion's Right to Interpreter

Bloomberg Law posted an interesting story about the rights of caregivers. It is a bit of a conundrum-one that we are sure has HIPPA scratching their heads. Where do patient privacy rights stop (or should they even?) and where does a caregiver’s right to information about their loved ones kick in?


This particular case involves a caregiver being denied a sign language interpreter while her husband was in a hospital. Not having access to an interpreter, she claims, violated federal disability bias laws and also stopped her from fully understanding her husband’s prognosis and healthcare plan.


What are your thoughts on this? Let us know.


And read on below to see how the case turned out….



Patient Privacy May Trump Deaf Companion's Right to Interpreter Bloomberg Law (NY) (10/01/19) Pazanowski, Anne

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland says a Maryland hospital is facing a court trial concerning a deaf woman's claim that it violated federal disability bias law by failing to provide her with an American Sign Language interpreter during her husband's treatments.

Patricia Ganzzermiller alleges that the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center did not provide her with a qualified sign language interpreter so that she could fully understand her husband's medical care and his cancer prognosis. The District Court has stated that the claim hinges on whether her husband's right to withhold medical information truly entitled Ganzzermiller to those services.

The court denied the hospital's motion for summary judgment, saying it could not resolve a factual dispute over the information Ganzzermiller was entitled to receive based on the record. The court explained that there is little law on whether a nonpatient deaf companion's Rehabilitation Act rights equal those of a patient. The court added that it's undisputed that a patient has a right to privacy in his protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The court concluded that Ganzzermiller was entitled to auxiliary aids to enable effective communication with her husband's caregivers. However, the court also stated that her husband's Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rights tempered her ability to enforce the right to auxiliary aids.

The court stated that Ganzzermiller's husband had elected to withhold certain medical information from his wife throughout his illness. The hospital, therefore, could not be liable for failing to provide her with auxiliary aids if by doing so it would have provided her with more information than her husband wanted her to have. The court added that such action would have violated her husband's right to privacy.



Photographer: Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images



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