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Family Suing 3 L.I. Medical Facilities After Deaf Man Dies Without Knowing Diagnosis

WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - The family of an elderly deaf man claims he died not knowing his proper diagnosis because his requests for a sign language interpreter were denied.

His children, who are also deaf, are now suing.

As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the Weinrib siblings cannot talk about their frustration but described their father's final months through a sign language interpreter.

"We asked for an interpreter, our request was denied and our frustrations grew because of that," Lance Weinrib told Gusoff. "The two of us couldn't communicate, my father was frustrated because he couldn't communicate."

Born deaf to deaf parents, the Weinribs claim their 82-year-old father Alfred was repeatedly denied requests for a sign language interpreter at three different hospitals on Long Island.

They said they were shocked to find out he died of cancer.

"They never told us the word cancer, they never said it anywhere. Any doctor or nurse that we spoke to said he's fine, two thumbs up, he's good," Lance Weinrib explained.

"I had no idea that my father was doing so badly and I thought he was improving when he wasn't," Melinda Weinrib said through an interpreter.

They're suing Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip and the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, claiming his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were violated.

The lawsuits claims mental anguish, saying there were errors in medication and medical history.

"What happened here to Alfred Weinrib and his family is egregious that he was denied sign language interpreters over a seven month period," attorney Eric Baum told Gusoff.

The Weinribs claim they weren't even provided a videophone, which is required by law.

Deaf rights advocates say the complaints made in the lawsuit are common.

"American Sign Language interpreters have to be provided so that deaf individuals have access and all too often that access is not provided," Bruce Gitlin, founder of the New York Center for Law And Justice, told Gusoff.

The Weinribs call it a tragedy that their father never knew he was dying of cancer. They say they're suing to send a message that deaf people have rights.

A spokesperson for Good Samaritan Hospital told CBS 2 that their policy is to offer sign language interpretation to communicate medical or clinical information to all hearing-impaired patients.

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