Gathering comprehensive and correct information about a patient’s medical condition is important to both doctors and medical school students. Imagine being a med school student that is still learning the ropes and dealing with communication challenges. That is the exact situation that Michael Argenyi, former student at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska had to  deal with. Argenyi is legally deaf and although he was able to communicate efficiently with accommodations in the classroom setting, the clinic setting was challenging.

So, Argenyi did what most other individuals with a communications barrier would do, he asked for an interpreter. Logical request, right? Creighton University didn’t think so and denied his request, even after Argenyi offered to pay for the interpreter out of his own pocket. Due to his inability to communicate effectively in the clinical setting, Argenyi had to take a leave of absence from the school and is now awaiting the results of a discrimination lawsuit.

In an email to The New York Times, Argenyi explained his situation, “I couldn’t understand so much of the communication in the clinic. It was humiliating to present only half of a history because I had missed so much of what was communicated. I was embarrassed every time I would miss medicine names that I knew from classes but couldn’t understand when the patient or a colleague spoke them.”

Argenyi is obviously a smart guy but his disability was getting in the way of his work. The key word here is disability – individuals with disabilities are afforded certain protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and that is going to be the basis of his trial, which began on Tuesday according to The New York Times.

Disability advocates across the country are going to be watching this trial closely, including myself. Although my children aren’t deaf, both are protected under the ADA and so I am keenly interested in the outcome of this case.

Disability protection issues aside, there is another part of this case that is intriguing. If Argenyi needs a translator during clinical rotations, he may need a translator once he receives his medical degree. If you were a patient, would you be uncomfortable sharing your medical history with a doctor that was using an interpreter? Would you be concerned that something could be lost in interpretation?

via [NY Times]

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