Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Examining the role of informal interpretation in medical interviews
  1. L Bezuidenhout,
  2. P Borry
  1. Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, Leuven, Belgium
  1. Dr L Bezuidenhout, KU Leuven Box 7001, UZ St Rafael, Kapucijnenvoer 35/3, 3000 Leuven, Belgium; loubez{at}


A linguistic barrier between healthcare professional and patient is a challenging experience for both parties. In many cases, the absence of formally trained medical interpreters necessitates that an informal interpreter, drawn from the immediate environment, be used to facilitate communication. While the presence of an interpreter in a medical interview raises many questions about the effectiveness of the communication between healthcare professional and patient, it also gives rise to new speculations revolving on patient rights, medical ethics and patient privacy. In this article we examine the concept of communication competency in medical interviews, as well as translation theory, and link these theories to Western medical ethics in order to identify potential areas in which informal interpretation could impact on the patient.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: LB was funded by the Erasmus Mundus Masters in Bioethics programme.

  • Competing interests: None.

Other content recommended for you