The U.S. Department of Justice and Des Moines-based Center for Endodontic Care, Inc. d/b/a Dental Specialty Clinic (DSC) have resolved a complaint that the clinic failed to provide interpretation services to a patient who is deaf, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.

The clinic agrees to undertake a number of improvements to ensure appropriate interpreter services for clients who are deaf, the DOJ said. The complainant in the case will be paid $45,000 in compensation for the discrimination she suffered.

“Effective communication with patients is critical in medical and dental appointments, and auxiliary aids and services are required by law for patients who need them,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “Our office is a leader in bringing these cases on behalf of Washingtonians who are deaf or hard of hearing. I hope that providers will assess and improve their services for those who are deaf and hard of hearing before complaints, such as this one, require federal intervention.”

According to the settlement agreement the complainant scheduled emergency dental treatment with the Dental Specialty Clinic (DSC) in June 2020. The complainant had been told by her routine dentist that due to pain she was suffering, she needed to have her wisdom teeth removed and possibly one other tooth, as well as a possible root canal. DSC told the patient it was likely there would not be a sign language interpreter available. The complainant understood that she would be contacted if no interpreter was available. However, the clinic did not contact her, and when she arrived for treatment, there was no interpreter. She was unaware that she agreed to the removal of seven teeth which caused her significant physical pain and emotional distress.

In addition to the $45,000 in compensation to the patient, DSC agrees to institute new procedures such as using an effective communication intake form with each patient and keeping that information in each patient file. The clinic will contract with a qualified interpreter services provider to ensure that there are sign language interpretation services either in person or by video during its hours of operation. The clinic agrees not to use a family member for such interpretation services unless it is an emergency of imminent threat to safety, or if the patient requests that the family member provide interpretation. The clinic will post notices about its interpretation services in the clinic and on its website.

The clinic has agreed to provide training for all its employees about the new procedures, record keeping, and ways to access the interpretation services. For three years the clinic will provide reports and records, and copies of any complaints, to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure the clinic is complying with this agreement.

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The clinic cooperated fully with the investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The settlement was negotiated by Assistant United States Attorney Matt Waldrop.