I was recently interpreting for a patient at a doctor’s appointment. The doctor entered the room and in a very clear, straight forward way, told the patient that he had tried everything he reasonably knows and there is nothing more he can do for the patient. The patient would be sent for a functional capacity test and his impairment rating would be calculated.
The news was devastating for the patient. He shook his head and gasped. His daughter began to cry. She begged the doctor saying “Is that it? I see how much pain he has to live with every day! You can’t do anything else? You’re a doctor! You’re supposed to help people!”
The doctor simply repeated what he said and pointed out that he did not need surgery. The family was in shock, devastated.
My job as an interpreter is to communicate what is being said in an unbiased manner. My training and knowledge of the importance to maintain neutrality helped me to do my job. That didn’t make it any easier. Most of the time I love my work, but that was not one of those moments. I am a human being, not a robot, and so I could not escape feeling compassion for this grieving family.
It is not my place, nor am I qualified, to question the medical professional’s decision or bedside manner. I am aware that my service helps all parties involved to make decisions based on knowledge, and I cannot interfere with that process. I do wish at times though that I could turn off my emotions like Data (the android) in Star Trek.