Dangerous Examples Medical Translation Mistakes


Dangerous Examples Medical Translation Mistakes

Dangerous Examples Medical Translation Mistakes

(Last Updated On: November 14, 2023)

Imagine being in a situation where you have bad health or severely injured and not being able to properly communicate about your condition to the doctors. A nightmare, right? Well, this very thing has been a dreadful one for millions of people around the world who were not treated properly due to language barriers which caused miscommunications. Medical translation mistakes cannot be treated casually as a single misinterpreted word can create a life and death situation.

Horrific side of Medical Translation Mistakes

Let me walk you through the medical situations which need professional translators.

Many cases of a drug overdose get reported on a daily basis, and any delayed translation or for that matter, a wrong one may lead to critical life and death moments for the patient.

Medical translations are not as easy as they seem to be and require a lot more importance than they are given, since someone’s life could totally depend upon them. If you’re looking for certified medical translators, then check this out.


Dangerous Examples Medical Translation Mistakes

If you have read about this topic before you must have heard a very famous example of an incident of an 18-year-old baseball player, Willie Ramirez. In the year 1980, Willie was rushed to a local hospital in South Florida after he had fallen into a coma. His parents had stated his illness to the physician as ‘intoxicado’. In Spanish, It could be translated to the adverse effects of anything ingested. Instead, it was interpreted as strictly ’intoxicated’ which was the first wrong step. When his family tried to warn speak about the fact that he had eaten something which caused this reaction, the hospital misunderstood him to have been heavily drunk. As a result of the misdiagnosis, Willie was left quadriplegic for life after an excessive brain bleed.

As this case required a professional interpreter and upon not being able to provide one the hospital was responsible for a settlement of about $71 million to cover the care expenses for the rest of Willies life.

In one other incident, the translation error of English software utilized in a hospital in France lead to them conducting excess use of radiation for more than a year. As for other cases, there were victims of double mastectomies and had their kidneys taken out due to misinterpretation.

Things you must know to prevent the horrific side!

Learning Medical terminologies is vital for an interpreter to save lives.

These days many translation apps have been developed and whatnot, make use of those if you are left with no other option.

All international hospitals have it imperative upon them to provide a professional interpreter, if they are unable to do so it can cause them severe damage legally.

If you plan to take a trip to China, for instance, you must either learn important Chinese terminologies, carry a handbook for translation, have a friend accompany you who is fluent in Chinese, or you may hire a translator for the trip.


In what ways can hospitals minimize this problem

A medical interpreter is as important as a life-saving drug!

Health care providers need a bilingual staff to improve communication between doctors and patients.

Quality of translation is directly linked with the quality of care, which means medical translation accuracy is the key factor in the treatment process.

The instruction manual must be written in multiple languages for the staff to be able to apprehend properly, e.g. a patient needs no further treatment so the discharge instructions will help cater to the situation.

One correct term translated may result in eliminating life-threatening conditions. Take an example of Intentional drug overdose and the patient requires a qualified interpreter, it requires urgent translation and timely treatment.

The patient’s life is dependent on each second used to communicate the problem to the health care professional.

Medical Care must not be treated lightly as it also requires language services which most hospitals neglect.

Now let us look at a few examples of the importance of these translations which lead to common medical translation mistakes:

Consent forms:

Imagine your loved one urgently needs surgery which may result in fatality and the hospital requires you to sign a consent form to start the procedure and you are unable to read the language written on it. Scary! I know.

Medical Terms:

Many words are very hard to interpret correctly and one slight mistake of even an alphabet can switch up the entire meaning of the problem at hand. Medical terms are very difficult to understand and further communicate. Hence without a professional interpreter, there could be serious problems.

Medical Conditions:

I’m sure you all agree that our parents can more comfortably explain their condition in their native language. And without a proper translator, their medical issue might be left untreated.

The direction of a hospital:

Say you are on a trip to Spain, you witness a car accident and put the victim in your car, and call the nearest hospital you find on the internet. You need a translator to explain the Spanish term in a language understandable to you.

Emergency Room doctors:

They need to be bilingual or most definitely keep language experts to maintain standards of care for the patients.

Healthcare Costs:

Imagine agreeing to get a treatment done not realizing what it would cost, and at the end is left to take loans. Yikes!

After having read these examples you must be able to understand how important medical translation services are. Every hospital must have medical translators to bridge the communication gap between healthcare providers and a foreign patient.

Another vital issue is the target languages. Many hospitals have their official language as English but not everyone is fluent enough to communicate their condition properly.

For that very matter, target languages are important and may vary from location to location. So, every location must take into account the foreign languages they must incorporate to keep preventing any life-threatening situations.

Medical interpreters are like oxygen tanks at times!

We know you must be thinking about how crucial a medical interpreter can become in anyone’s life.

Well, I hope none of you have to go through a medical emergency where such a problem of language barrier occurs, and even if it does, we hope a medical interpreter comes saving your day like superman!


You may be wondering how easy being a medical translator must be. But be wary of the fact that someone’s life may depend entirely upon the words you interpret.

It is not easy to take this much responsibility. But the fact that you are equally important as a doctor is making this job a fruitful one. As for the doctor to treat the patient efficiently, it is important for the translation to be accurate.

It is so imperative for hospitals and schools to teach people of all ages the importance of medical translations so that more light can be shed on this issue and can be avoided timely.

Seeing you have read till the very end shows your keen interest in this matter which is amazing.

Our medical translators are always available for you. They are professionals with in-depth knowledge of medical jargon. Their expertise in their relative field is exemplary and they have been translating medical documents for years. If you want to learn more about them and the type of documents they translate, check our medical translation services.

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