25 Mar Consequences of mistranslations in medical translations

As long as we get more and more contents and knowledge in the translations area, we are more sure about the needs of performing professional and specialized translations. When we face a technical text, a mistranslation can lead to serious consequences and thus impact on big amounts of money or even corporate crisis. However, taking these issues to the health area, consequences can be extremely serious, provided medical problems can arise in relation to patients’ stability and survival.

New studies about the situation and impact of medical translations and people who translate them have been carried out recently encouraged by the importance of this matter. In those studies it is clearly understood the importance and needs to have qualified translators in hospitals and healthcare centres, since their help may lower costs in the health service and yet save lives.

Medical translation is a complex process requiring much more than a mechanical conversion from one language to another
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“Medical translation is a complex process requiring much more than a mechanical conversion from one language to another”, says one of these studies; “without high quality medical documents, health providers cannot offer quality health care and patients may risk from receiving inferior services”. These statements clearly show the importance and needs of professional services.

So, being certain that one may invest in specialized medical translations… can anyone carry out these requests? This is another of the points focused on the study. Similarly, if a professional translation is essential, the person who carries it out must have an outstanding level, skill, studies and experience. They shouldn’t be junior translators (without the aid of a senior translator, it is understood), nor “non-native translators”, who do not know the required medical language, since they wouldn’t be able to “localize” the text, missing important hues needed for the sake of quality. Actually, evidences show that errors in medical translations are less common when interpreters have more than 100 hours’ training and experience in the field. (It refers to interpreters who carry out their tasks in health care centres or hospitals).

medical translations

But… What consequences can actually happen when mistranslating medical documents?

1.- Serious Adverse Events, for example, in a patient’s health (when mistranslationg a pharma prospect, for instance) that can risk his/her life.

2.- Differences in Informed Consent Forms before surgery.

3.- Errors in clinical trials that can lead to deviations in the trial progress.

4.- Lost of credibility from patients and clients.

5.- Damages in the lab’s or medical institution’s corporate image.

6.- Sales not developing properly (even in books for which a bad translation has been performed).

7.- Legal issues derived from bad medical praxis due to translation errors.

It is essential to take into account these and other consequences that can arise when mistranslating medical documents. In other professional areas, not performing correct translations may have a negative impact for the company but, we should never forget that in the case of medical translations we are dealing with health. Moreover, not only a professional service should be contracted but it should really be, with native and specialized translators.


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