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Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Language Access
Type: Media Coverage

Lost in translation: Life-saving medication could be deadly if patient can’t decipher the label

A life-saving medication could be a killer, if you’re not fluent in the language on the label.

That’s according to immigrant advocates who are pushing for a state law that would require chain pharmacies provide translation services.

Their cause got a boost last week when Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) re-introduced such a bill, mirroring a city rule already on the books.

"It’s easy to be seriously injured or killed by your medication," said Gottfried.

Despite the existing city law, immigrants say finding drugstore workers who speak their language can be difficult.

One Bushwick, Brooklyn, woman had to visit three pharmacies before she found a mom-and-pop where they spoke Spanish, the group Make the Road by Walking reported.

"If you are not providing language services to these folks, you are not counseling them appropriately," said Theo Oshiro, director of health advocacy for the group.

His group’s study found only half of major pharmacies across the state could translate labels for non-English speaking customers, and 30% couldn’t give oral directions.

Gottfried and state Sen. Thomas Duane (D-Manhattan) introduced bills to require translation services in all state pharmacies last year, but they never had a hearing.

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