Lawsuit: 3 LI medical facilities didn't communicate with deaf patient, family

Shown in a family photo, Alfred Weinrib and Shown in a family photo, Alfred Weinrib and his two children Lance Weinrib, of North Babylon, and Melinda Weinrib, of Deer Park. Photo Credit: Weinrib Family

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An elderly deaf man died of cancer in April without knowing his diagnosis after three Long Island facilities failed to provide him and his deaf children with accommodations like sign language interpreters, a lawsuit alleges.

Lance Weinrib and his sister Melinda Weinrib claim in the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip that the family's requests for qualified interpreters and services such as a video phone were routinely denied in the seven months Alfred Weinrib was treated, starting September 2012.

The services, required by law to accommodate persons with disabilities, were only provided after repeated demands, the suit claims.

The Weinribs and doctors struggled to communicate; at one facility, Weinrib wrapped a bell cord around his neck to get "the staff to pay attention to him and provide an interpreter," the suit claims.

It accuses Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola; Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip and Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack of discrimination and violating the state Human Rights Law and federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

A printer, Weinrib, 82, of Queens, died of cardiac arrest and malignant melanoma.

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Manhattan attorney Eric M. Baum, representing the family, said laws require that hospitals provide interpreters and services for the deaf. "Unfortunately, deaf people are routinely denied the right to communicate with doctors and medical providers," he said Sunday.

The suit seeks a court order requiring that the facilities provide the interpreters, Baum said.

Winthrop spokesman Edmund Keating declined to comment Sunday.

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In an email, Good Samaritan spokeswoman Theresa Jacobellis said the hospital's "policy is to offer sign language interpretation to communicate medical or clinical information to all hearing-impaired patients."

Interpretation is available through "video service or live interpreters," she said.

A Gurwin representative could not be reached.

Baum said Lance, of North Babylon, and Melinda, of Deer Park, knew of Weinrib's seizures and pneumonia.

They learned of his cancer from medical records they received about four months after his death, Baum said.

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It was not clear when Weinrib was diagnosed with cancer.

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