Medical Translations: Language Assistance Saves Lives
Access to proper health services and medications is often taken for granted by many people in the United States. However, we tend to overlook the fact that out of 44 million Latino immigrants living in this country, 78% grow up speaking Spanish at home. In many cases, this entails that they have limited if any knowledge of the English language making it difficult for them to understand the complex terminology in prescriptions and medical settings. As a result, the absence of adequate medical translation
and medical interpretation services
endangers numerous Latino immigrants who lack sufficient command of the English language.
A complaint recently filed in New York holds that federal civil rights law and state health regulations guarantee individuals with limited English proficiency equal access to health services through easy access to linguistic assistance. The complaint alleges that 16 pharmacies failed to provide adequate help to non-English speakers to ensure that they understood their prescriptions. This negligence could be lethal in the event that an individual takes an incorrect dosage or medication. One of the cases cited in the complaint was that of a Latino immigrant by the name of Reyita Rivera. Due to the absence of a pharmaceutical translation
and lack of bilingual staff, she misunderstood her prescribed dosage. She overdosed on antidepressant medication and had to be admitted to a hospital shortly after.
In essence, it is not possible to ensure proper health services without a bilingual staff and easy access to translations. Many pharmacies have tried to alleviate this growing problem by providing telephone interpreters
, hiring bilingual pharmacists, and providing labels in various languages. However, to ensure that Spanish-speaking immigrants are not put in harms way, there must be an increased prevalence in the translation of forms, product labels, patient information brochures, and medical articles in addition to other frequently encountered Medical Spanish translations
By Karina Lairet