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Course:Law3020/2014WT1/Group D


Theories

Natural Law

Legal Positivism

Separation Thesis

System of Rights (Dworkin)

Liberty/Paternalism

Economic Efficiency

Feminist Jurisprudence

Summary of Eldridge v B.C. [1997]

Facts

The appellants were born deaf, making sign language their preferred means of communication is sign language. The appellants submitted that the absence of interpreters impairs their ability to communicate with their doctors and other health care providers thereby increasing the chances of misdiagnoses and ineffective treatments. The appellants were unsuccessful in bringing a declaration in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that the lack of interpreters infringed on their Section 15(1) rights under the Charter. Furthermore, the appellants contested that the cost of interpreters should be covered by insurance.

Issues

  1. Is there a violation of the appellants section 15(1) rights by not providing them interpreters for medical purposes under the Medical Health Care Services Act?
  2. Can the impugned provision in the Act be saved under section 1 of the charter?

Court's Reasoning

The courts first interpreted the purpose of section 15(1), which is to primarily protect human dignity and rectifying discrimination against disadvantaged groups. The courts then proceeded to interpret the language in the Health Insurance Act in accordance with the principles articulated in Section 15(1).


As deaf individuals the appellants belong to an enumerated group under Section 15(1), under the category of physical disability. Lower courts characterized interpretive services as ancillary services similar to other non-medical services. Furthermore, access to medical services was limited for deaf people due to lack of communication, this hindrance did not occur from the denial of any benefit of the law within the meaning of section 15(1) of the Charter.


Justice La Forest, however viewed the failure of taking positive steps to ensure that disadvantaged groups benefit equally from services offered to the general public as a matter of discrimination. He further described positive action as a cornerstone of human rights jurisprudence (79).


As a result, Justice La Forest stated that the failure of the Medical Service Commission and hospitals to provide sign language interpretation where it is deemed necessary for effective communication of symptoms constituted a violation under section 15(1) rights of deaf people and this infringement could not be saved under section 1.