JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (AP) — A deaf couple says a Tennessee hospital discriminated against them by failing to provide a qualified sign language interpreter while their 21-year-old daughter was dying of cancer.
Chris and Donna Cantrell's federal lawsuit against Mountain States Health Alliance in Johnson City was filed Wednesday by Disability Rights Tennessee and the National Association of the Deaf.
The organizations say the Johnson City Medical Center refused to provide qualified sign language interpreters to allow the couple from Wise, Virginia, to participate in their daughter's care during the six months before Sydnei Cantrell died on May 19.
"(The couple) watched their daughter suffer from serious health conditions ... without ever receiving a full explanation of what was happening to their daughter," the lawsuit said. "(Donna) Cantrell saw her daughter burst into tears but had no idea why she was crying. Because her daughter was too upset to explain, (she) did not learn that her daughter was dying until much later."
The hospital provided a person to facilitate communications on fewer than five occasions, but the person was not qualified to act as an interpreter and didn't sign clearly enough, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit asks a judge to order Mountain States to develop a nondiscrimination policy requiring the provision of qualified sign language interpreters, and to train medical staff on compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit also asks for unspecified compensatory damages and attorneys' fees.
Mountain States spokeswoman Teresa Hicks declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality requirements.