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Language Barrier Can Create Medical Mistakes

Steve Wagner

Imagine yourself in a foreign country, trying to get medical treatment for an injury or illness you are suffering from, but the language barrier prohibits you from telling the medical staff the issues you are dealing with.

Thousands of Americans deal with this problem every day, and our hospitals are not properly equipped to handle communication with anyone who speaks a language other than English. The problem lies in securing translators who are adequately trained and proficient in medical terminology. The training to become a certified medical translator is not only time consuming, but it is also expensive, and the work available in the field of medical translation is often part-time, or even sporadic work that doesn’t afford a comfortable lifestyle for someone who has worked so hard to adequately train for their career.

With the recent passing of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals are now being penalized for readmissions of patients, so the need to cut back on the amount of medical errors, and give proper diagnoses is more important than ever if hospitals want to keep their government funding and keep their lights on.

A 2012 study by the American College of Emergency Physicians found that the error rate for professionally trained interpreters was only 12%, as opposed to family members or layperson-translators, who had an average error rate of 22%. The study also found that when interpreters had over 100 hours of training, their error rate could drop as low as 2%.

The difference in having a professional translator vs. a non-professional translator could be the difference between life and death for many non-English speaking patients.

Have you or a loved one been injured by medical mistakes due to a faulty translation? If so, the medical malpractice attorneys at Wagner Reese can assist you in recovering the compensation you deserve for the injuries you have suffered. Give us a call today for more information on our services, or to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.


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