Ethical Dilemmas

As early as 1964, Federal Civil Rights legislation prohibited discrimination under any program receiving federal financial assistance. This means that hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings must avoid discrimination based on race, color, and national origin, including language. This is why qualified medical interpreters are in such high demand!  
More and more, medical interpreters must demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the healthcare setting. This includes knowing the Code of Ethics and national set of Standards of Practice that guide interpreter practice in the medical setting. Today thirty-two (32) Standards of Practice define what competent medical interpretation looks like.  In addition, any credible medical interpreter certification test has a section that assesses the candidate’s knowledge of the medical Standards of Practice.  
In response to a need for training, NCI developed comprehensive workshops and webinars to equip medical interpreters with the requisite understanding of this field. In addition to reviewing the Codes and Standards, participants are tested on authentic scenarios to solidify their knowledge and prepare them for the medical interpreting profession.  The following are some examples of scenarios NCI presents as part of training.
#1 In a psychiatric appointment the patient seems rather uncomfortable and does not respond with complete sentences.  The answers to the psychiatrist’s questions do not make much sense.  The interpreter should:

  • A. always render an interpretation with complete sentences and correct grammar.
  • B. interpret everything the patient says, even if it doesn’t make much sense.
  • C. skim over the things that don't make sense and focus on the coherent parts.
  • D. warn the patient to speak in complete sentences so the doctor won’t think he is unstable.

#2 The interpreter is in a doctor-patient interview.  The doctor makes an offensive joke about the patient then asks the interpreter not to relay that.  What should the interpreter do?

  • A. The interpreter should interpret everything that was said in the encounter.
  • B. The interpreter should interpret the rest of the message and try to tone down the joke.
  • C. The interpreter should refuse to work with the doctor in the future.
  • D. The interpreter should ask the doctor not to do that again then continue interpreting without relaying the joke.

What did you choose?

For question #1, the right answer is "B." For question #2, the right answer is "A."

If you are interested in learning more and becoming more proficient in the ethical decisions interpreters must make, then we invite you to join our upcoming webinar on "Court vs Medical Interpreter Ethics" on January 28, 2017. Learn more on the webinar event page.