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Medical translation and the problem of accuracy

Medical translation and the problem of accuracy

Some mistakes have truly dramatic consequences, and bad medical translation is in that group. You can afford to make the odd typo in a political manifesto. The worse that can happen is that you might lose some loyal supporters. But no one is going to die from your mistake.

However, errors in medical translation can have very unpleasant results. They can jeopardize not only the health and well-being of patients, but also the existence of medical institution. That’s how bad it gets.


An example of a bad mistake

in 2007 47 patients were misdiagnosed in the United States, and knee surgeries were conducted as a result. The patients had to undergo a second knee replacement surgery. This was a painful procedure that often requires months of recovery. And all because of an inaccurate medical translation that they received.  The translation talked about “non-cemented” or “without cement,” rather than “non-modular cemented.”

The omission of a single word had a dramatic effect on the lives of 47 innocent patients. It also had untold financial consequences for the company concerned.


Inaccurate medical translation leads to medical complications

Fact: when it comes to medical translations, precision is a must. In other words, you can’t afford to omit, substitute, or add anything that wasn’t supposed to be in a report or translation. This is because, an incorrect word or phrase could cause complications. Perhaps during a surgical operation your doctor trusts his data is correct. If the data is not correct, the price to pay could be the patient’s life and his medical career.



The same is applicable if a piece of information concerning dosage is mistakenly omitted. When this happens, medication that could have helped the life of a patient may automatically become a problematic substance. This could be due to an over/under dose or as a result of taking the pills at the wrong time.


The importance of accuracy in medical translation

Trust is built over time but can be lost with just one careless action. Patients, by nature, often put their trust in the hands of doctors. Imagine a doctor mistakenly omits or submits an inaccurate medical translation to a patient. The trust in the doctor or medical institution as a whole will undoubtedly collapse. It’s the very reason why accuracy in medical translation is so important.



So, don´t be scared to translate medical documentation or work in a medical institution. But remember there is no room for inaccuracy when sharing life-dependent data.

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