Deaf woman unknowingly has 7 teeth removed by dentist at Des Moines dental clinic

The U.S. Department of Justice and a dental clinic in Des Moines have resolved a complaint in which the clinic failed to provide interpretation services to a patient who is deaf, resulting in teeth being removed which the patient was unaware of, U.S. Attorney Nick Brown announced Thursday.

According to the settlement agreement, the woman scheduled emergency dental treatment with the Center for Endodontic Care, doing business as Dental Specialty Clinic, in Des Moines in June 2020. She was told by her dentist that due to the pain she was suffering, she would need to have her wisdom teeth removed, along with possibly one other tooth and a possible root canal.

The clinic told the woman that it was likely a sign language interpreter would not be available. The woman understood that she would be contacted if that were the case, but the clinic never contacted her. When she arrived for treatment, there was no interpreter.

The woman unknowingly had seven teeth removed, causing significant physical pain and emotional distress, according to court records.

The clinic has agreed to make a number of improvements to ensure appropriate interpreter services for deaf clients, and will pay $45,000 to the woman in this case 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,” Brown said. “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.”

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