On September 8, I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I spoke with a woman who works there and told her I am a Spanish interpreter. She told me she wished her husband had been able to work with an interpreter 30 years ago, before he met her. Here is her story, as she emailed it to me. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

Luis came from Peru, South America, to the United States of America to search for an eye doctor who could help him with his eyes. After seeing several doctors in several countries, and having been told that they could not help him, he went to Dr. XXXX in Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. XXXX wrote in my husband’s medical record that nothing could be done to make his eyes better.

Luis had partial detached retina in both eyes but he was still able to see with the help of glasses. He did not understand because he did not speak English. A friend told Luis about NIH (National Institutes of Health) and recomended that he try there. The NIH doctor saw his records from Dr. XXXX at Johns Hopkins, but proceeded to do an experimental operation on one eye  and then the other eye, and made Luis totally blind in both eyes.

I hope that someone can prevent this kind of malpractice. Thank you for your interest.

Currently, Federal regulations require that hospitals work with qualified interpreters and translators to provide language access. Family and friends are not allowed to provide interpreting and translation services. Untrained and untested bilingual employees do not qualify for this task either. Luis’s situation should not happen in today’s environment. However, is this the case? Is this happening in schools, in police stations, or in other settings?