Health Trust pay £7k after daughter has to tell her deaf father his illness was terminal

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust has apologised and paid £7,000, without admission of liability, to the family of a profoundly deaf County Antrim man, after his daughter had to tell him his illness was terminal.

Jillian Shanks had to communicate the news to her now-deceased father Thomas Carson, as a sign language interpreter was not provided.

She says it was a very distressing ordeal: ““My father, Thomas Carson, was taken ill quite suddenly and, because the hospital did not provide a sign language interpreter, I had to communicate the news to him that his condition was terminal and he was going to die. ”

“That was very distressing for him, for myself and for my mother, who is also deaf and was with him throughout”

– Jillan Shanks

Both the late Thomas Carson and his wife Mary are profoundly deaf and have always used British Sign Language as their first language. It is through that language that their daughter Jillian communicates with them.

Mary said: “The hospital knew that both my husband and I were deaf and they should have followed their own policy and ensured that we had an interpreter at such a critical time.”

“We just hope that this will mean that no other family have to face such a problem.”

– Mary Carson

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland supported Jillian and her mother to bring a case under the Disability Discrimination Act over the Trust’s failure to provide interpretation services.

In settling the case the Trust has apologised for the upset and distress the family experienced and for the fact that, by not providing an interpreter to Mr. Carson, it had not acted in accordance with its ‘Policy on Access on Interpreting and Written Translation Services’.

Jillian says: “The lack of a qualified sign language interpreter to communicate with my father and mother during his last days added greatly to the ordeal for all of us.”

Anne McKernan, Director of Legal Services, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, welcomed the fact that the Trust has now taken steps, on the ward concerned, to highlight the importance of providing independent interpreters for patients who need them.

“The Trust’s failure to implement the policies they already had in place meant that an additional degree of unnecessary distress and hurt was caused to this family. It could and should have been avoided,” she said.

Anne McKernan added “The Trust has undertaken to liaise with the Commission in respect of its training and to ensure all its staff are aware of their policy on interpreters.”


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