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Mass. Gen. Laws. Ann. ch. 111, § 25J - Competent interpreter services in acute-care hospitals

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All acute care hospitals must provide competent interpreter services in emergency departments to all non-English speaking patients (those who cannot speak or understand or have trouble speaking or understanding English because his or her primary language is not English). Competent interpreter services is defined as translation services provided by an individual competent in both English and another language, and is trained in the ethics and skills of interpreting and has knowledge of the specialized terms and concepts used in emergency room care.  The hospital can either employ or contract competent interpreters based on their needs.  A hospital must avoid using interpreter services over the phone or television unless the need for such an interpreter could not have been anticipated or it was not possible to use an employed or contracted interpreter.  Compliance with this section is a licensing requirement for acute care hospitals. 

A non-English speaking patient who is denied emergency department care due to the lack of available interpreter services has the right to bring an action in court against the hospital for declaratory or injunctive relief.  Such a patient may be awarded damages for the harm done, but the court must award $250 in damages to the patient for each violation, plus costs and attorney’s fees.  The time limit to bring such an action is three (3) years.

Current as of June 2015