Risks in interpreting

Unfortunately, problems aren’t generally solved  until they are acknowledged. For example, communities do not generally install traffic lights, at a cost of $140,000, until there have been several accidents at the intersection in question.

In interpreting, are there risks? What could possibly go wrong?

Misdiagnosis:

As a result of a misdiagnosis, Willy Ramirez, a high school baseball player, is a quadriplegic. The misdiagnosis was based on a mistranslation of the word “intoxicado”, which in Spanish means simply that something a person ate or drank has affected them. Many times, it refers to food poisoning. The doctor understood,  inaccurately, that this young man had a drug overdose. It took two days to diagnose his intracerebral hematoma and subdural hematoma. Consequence: a $71 million lawsuit and a lifelong disability. Read a two chapter preview of a book on this case here.

Wrongful conviction:

Santiago Ventura Morales was wrongly convicted for murder. The problem? As a native of Mexico, he was assigned a Spanish language interpreter. However, his language was Mixteco. He later returned to Oregon and worked for the Oregon Law Center.

Working with trained interpreters helps avoid these problems. See more about the business case for working with trained medical interpreters here.