How Can A Mistake In A Medical Translation Destroy A Life
Medical translation services are one of the most important language services offered by translation agencies. For a second, imagine that you are injured or sick and cannot communicate with the doctor? Consider what you would do if you wake up from surgery to discover that you had the wrong procedure done on you?
While these scenarios might seem far-fetched, they are a great possibility for many. Millions of people worldwide face such scenarios when confronted with a medical problem. Let’s take the US as an example. The United States Census Bureau states that about 25 million Americans don’t speak English fluently. Providing solutions and care to those in need requires proper communication in the medical field. Studies have shown that effectively communicating your symptoms can impact how efficient your treatment is. Approximately 70% of the information doctors base their diagnosis on extracts from the patient’s physical exam and history. These two information sources require effective interpersonal communication.
Patients that can effectively communicate with their healthcare providers tend to receive more effective treatments. Those that struggle due to language barriers are less likely to see success often. There is a statistic that drives home the point about language translation. In 2003, half the Californian doctors surveyed stated that they were personally aware of the language barrier affecting the quality of care provided.
The Risks of Medical Translation
One thing to note is that the translation demand for medical translation services outweighs the supply. When providing care, the most effective solution is to have a translation agency handle the language translation. However, this isn’t always available. In lieu of professional medical translation services, ad-hoc solutions like bilingual staff or family members are typically enlisted.
While this might seem to be the answer, it is another reason why those in need of medical treatment cannot get the care they need. Since these individuals are not professional, they are unable to give accurate language translation as a translation agency would.
Using the wrong cultural context or word could lead to someone dying without translation oversight. Using children or family members of the patient to translate medical documents also raises various privacy and ethical concerns. The simple fact is that fluent speakers will struggle with medical terminology since it is complicated. This hardship only reinforces the need for medical translation services.
Examples of Medical Translation Mistakes
Perhaps one of the most famous cases where a mistake in language translation destroyed a life is that of Willie Ramrez. Then 18-year-old Willie was a baseball player that fell into a coma and was taken to a local hospital in South Florida. On arrival at the hospital, his family stated he was “intoxicado” to the doctors. “intoxicado” is the Spanish term used for adverse effects of anything ingested. Doctors used a strict language translation, which they mistook as Willie having had too much to drink. This mistranslation caused a misdiagnosis resulting in a brain bleed. The brain bleeds caused Willie to be quadriplegic.
The hospital had failed in its duty to have a translation agency that offers medical translation services on standby. And as such, they were held liable for around $71 million in a settlement. Another high-profile case of failure to accurately translate medical documents happened in a French hospital.
The French hospital’s incorrect English language translation of software caused them to administer radiation overdoses for a year. The hospital also had cases where patients wrongly underwent double mastectomies or had kidneys removed. All these problems stemmed from the failure to accurately translate medical documents.
For this reason, every hospital needs a translation agency with knowledge in delivering medical translation services. Proper communication and language translation can sometimes be the difference between life or death.
Concerns with Translation Demand
Translation demand is bound to rise, creating other scenarios like those mentioned above. However, apart from errors that occur when hospitals translate medical documents, there are issues with using non-professional translators.
Non-professional translators are usually unaware of the confidential requirement. They are also ignorant of any insurance and legal matters. Typically, these concerns arise when patients are dealt with outside supervised care. It is difficult for patients to heed warnings and follow instructions properly if they do not get linked with a translation agency to help them decipher them.
It can be quite tricky for most people to comprehend that translation demands outpace available medical translation services; this imbalance results in poor communication that can hamper a patient’s quality of care. It can also harm the patient if careful oversight is not present.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this. Certain hospitals supplement the lack of in-person translation by having a phone interpreting. This phone line helps them make up for a dearth of bilingual staff. However, the most effective solution, one especially that almost eradicates mistakes, is to have trained professionals on hand.
By having trained translators on hand to translate medical documents, the risk associated with ad-hoc language translation is negated. Furthermore, evidence has shown that increased efforts in providing medical translation services can result in lower readmissions. Increased access to this language service can also raise the level of overall patient satisfaction. This, in turn, lowers the chance of catastrophic errors happening.
The Future of Medical Translation Services
In all, the process to translate medical documents is one that has to be done as accurately as possible. Something as simple as a word being out of place or a sentence omitted could result in a severe loss of life. Hospitals and healthcare providers need to find a way to balance translation demand with available professionals from a translation agency.
Renaissance Translations’ Medical Translation Services
At Renaissance Translations, we are aware that such mistakes can make disasters. For this reason, our language professionals are trained to translate medical documents with extra attention to detail. Contact us to discuss your project today!