When an Interpreter´s Ethics are Tested – Part II

October 29, 2013 JAlfonso 1 comment

My previous blog described a claimant desperately beseeching assistance. I remained strong and reminded myself of the code of ethics and why they are in place. Sometimes following the ethical course feels unethical or wrong; it is a thought-out, logical process that at times conflicts with our feeling of right and wrong.

Case Number Two

This person suffered serious work injuries and numerous complications from surgery, including a serious, life-threatening illness. He was angry and frustrated. A case manager was assigned to facilitate medical treatment. We were assigned to provide interpreting at all medical appointments.

On the first day, he requested that the case manager and I treat him to lunch. Firstly, he was hungry. Secondly, he had no money as the insurance company had not yet reimbursed him. Lastly, he reasoned that we make good money and can afford it, or that the insurance company should reimburse us for it. The individual was obsessed about the subject, as he would bring it up every time we met and talked about it repeatedly.

That same patient was also very distrustful of the insurance company and the medical treatment provided to him. As a result, he questioned many things that were said. That part is fine; however, he would always ask me for my opinion.

I explained to him that interpreters must refrain from giving advice, and they must always stay unbiased. I am there to facilitate the communication of information and cannot take sides. However, this particular patient expressed how stupid he thought that was. He continued insisting. He insisted that I state my opinion and continued to nag and argue over the issue. I showed the patient different interpreter code of ethics. He then stated that he understood but still didn’t agree and thought they were stupid. At this point, the case manager returned to us from tending to an issue. I explained to her our entire conversation.

Shortly after that experience and noticing how informal and friendly the patient was with me, I informed the case manager and adjuster that I would assign a different interpreter to the case. I sent them both the medical interpreter codes of ethics for their review. They understood and thanked me.

The interpreter I selected is very good. He is friendly, but has a very serious attitude. That change worked out well.

If we find ourselves emotionally compromised by a patient, or if we find a patient intent on having us compromise our ethics, it is time to remove ourselves and allow another interpreter to do the job.

Please share with me your thoughts or experiences on this issue.

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