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A Case for Communication

Published October 21, 2008 12:21 PM by Jennifer Ford

A recent post by Steven Ferrara, NP, on his blog "A Nurse Practitioner's View," discusses a recent court case in which a physician was sued by a deaf patient for not providing an interpreter. The judge awarded the patient $400,000.

 In his post, Ferrara admits that he's shocked by the idea that the insurance company claims the patient's care was not compromised: 

Maybe I have a different idea of quality or competent care. My view involves communication in addition to the science of rendering care. What good is it to treat symptoms and lab values if you can't communicate about the disease process, side effects, complications, etc?

This speaks to what I've seen to be the focus of a nurse practitioner: to treat the whole patient, including patient education and communication on top of diagnosis and treatment of diseases. But should health care providers be responsible for the cost of an interpreter? And if, like in this case, a malpractice insurer won't pay for these liabilities, it seems that providers might "benefit" from the expense of the interpreter, even if they lose money on the deal, to avoid the burden of large fines later.


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