Thursday, August 07, 2008

Wrong leg amputated

Asians in the US

From TODAY, World
Thursday August 7, 2008

All because of his poor command of English...

WASHINGTON — One Asian had the wrong leg amputated, while another was thrown in jail for not taking her medication — all because of their limited English proficiency in the United States.

The cases may seem appalling but they are not uncommon to Asian Americans.

More than 30 per cent of 14 million Asian Americans — most of whom are foreign born — are weak in the English language, making them less likely to understand explanations of medical procedures and medication instructions, officials said.

They also risk losing equal access to voting rights and education and other government services because of the language barrier.

An ethnic Hmong American “had the wrong leg amputated in a surgery”, said US House of Representatives lawmaker Mike Honda.

Mr Honda has introduced legislation with bipartisan support aimed at honing the English language skills of immigrants.

“Because no translators were provided, the man’s son was left with no choice but to try to interpret the consent form himself, and it was sadly misinterpreted,” said Mr Honda.

The Japanese-American lawmaker cited another case, of a Lao woman suffering from tuberculosis who was “imprisoned for not taking her medication.

“Her English proficiency was limited, and the necessity of taking her medication was never explained to her.

Thankfully, she filed a lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment and won,” Mr Honda said.

“These stories are not uncommon to Asian American and Pacific islanders and other minority communities,” he said.

Studies show that Asian Americans are the most “linguistically isolated” racial groups in the United States.

About 22 per cent of adults who spoke an Asian language spoke English not well or not at all, according to the 2000 census.

The percentage of seniors 65 and older in that category was 51 per cent.

Among households where an Asian language is primary, 30 per cent were considered to be linguistically isolated.

When disaggregated, the percentages are even greater among South-east Asian groups: 45 per cent of Vietnamese Americans, 31.8 per cent of Cambodian and Laotian Americans, and 35.1 per cent of Hmong Americans were linguistically isolated. AFP
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