“Only I know the pain I feel”

A basic ethical principle is that interpreters must convey meaning between people and cultures faithfully, accurately, and impartially. This means that as an interpreter I don’t take sides, and I don’t judge. My very essential function is to facilitate clear communication between parties.

A patient complained to his doctor of shoulder pain. The doctor and other medical professionals believed that there was nothing wrong with his shoulder. After insistent complaining, a scan revealed a tendon tear. The patient needed surgery.

On another occasion a patient suffering from dreadful pain and discernible swelling in his knee had the doctors and therapist baffled. Every effort was made to alleviate this patient. Shortly after his case ended and compensation was awarded, the patient barely capable of walking due to excruciating pain in his knees was seen jogging in the park.

The first example shows that medical professionals can make mistakes. The second example is of a person defrauding the system. On the surface both cases seemed similar.

In the first case, if I would have taken sides with the medical professionals, the action would have alienated me and cost me the trust of a truly injured patient. In the second case, had I sided with the patient, I would lose the trust of the health care professionals as well as assisted in the fraud.

Human beings are limited. We cannot read minds. We judge on what we are able to observe, and we can easily be deceived. This is one reason why interpreters must stay impartial.

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