Bad Advice

September 27, 2011 JAlfonso No comments exist

Often a patient receiving interpreting services will recognize my knowledge and experience. It is not uncommon for the patient to begin to ask me medical questions, especially if he disagrees with the doctor and seeks another opinion.

What do you think? Do you think that something else might be going on? Do you think an X-ray is enough? What should I tell the doctor? You have experience, you have seen this before, what should I do? Is this a good doctor, or is he in the pocket of the insurance company?  The questions the patient might pose are limitless.

Regrettably, some interpreters with some experience have fallen into the trap of expressing their opinions. They might even sincerely feel they are trying to help someone being treated unjustly by the system.

To get involved in such a way is a grave mistake. Interpreters’ role is to facilitate communication, not give advice. Doctors have the formal education and preparation to treat medically; interpreters do not (and if you do, you have to choose whether to practice medicine or language, not both). To get involved in such a way is dangerous and irresponsible and should never be done by an interpreter.

When patients begin to ask me such questions, I simply state: “I’m sorry, I’m not qualified in such matters. I am not a medical professional.  Whatever concerns you have, I will be happy to repeat them.”

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