FARMINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – A Navajo family is suing a Farmington hospital after a death in 2018. They claimed the hospital failed to get an interpreter for their sick family member who only spoke Navajo.
The family said they want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“My dad was not in his right state of mind. He was not responding to the questions she was asking,” said daughter Lynlaria Dickson.
Lynlaria Dickson said on February 7, 2018, her father Larry Williams began acting strange. They immediately took him to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington.
Williams was 67 and a Native elder that only spoke Navajo. His wife usually interpreted for him, but at one point during the examination, she had to go, leaving Williams without an interpreter.
Williams was diagnosed with a UTI and discharged later that day, but his condition worsened, and they took him back that same night. Medical staff found Williams was suffering from severe septic shock.
“I told him, you know, you’re gonna be okay, just get better. Not knowing that was gonna be the last time I was going to actually, you know, see my dad and talk to my dad alive,” explained daughter Lariet Williams.
Williams died two days later. In the lawsuit, it stated they “failed to perform an adequate evaluation” by not getting an interpreter.
“It’s unconscionable that San Juan Regional Medical Center which serves predominately Navajo patients in the San Juan area failed to provide him the linguistic services that he needed to protect his health and his well-being,” said ACLU-NM Senior Indigenous Justice Staff Attorney Preston Sanchez.
The family said San Juan Regional Medical Center is the closest hospital to the reservation, only fifteen minutes away.
They said, with so many Navajo and indigenous people in Farmington, the hospital needs to do better.
“Overall, we don’t want this to happen to other families you know. You know, we’re still suffering with it, you know, today, the loss of our father, like he would’ve still been here,” said daughter Lariet Williams.
Their attorney said the case was filed in 2021, due to the extra time needed to do research and delays caused by the pandemic.
KRQE reached out to the San Juan Regional Medical Center for comment, they did not return the call.