A Time to Speak and a Time to Keep Silent: Professional Ethics, Conscience, and the Medical Interpreter
Ethics, Medicine, and Public Health
Professional medical interpreter training initially emphasized the role of the interpreter as a ‘‘conduit’’ who faithfully and transparently rendered the messages of both the healthcare provider and the patient to each other for maximum understanding. Professional ethical standards required the interpreter to communicate only what the other parties were saying, without adding or deleting from the words spoken. However, as professional standards have evolved over the last three decades, and practice has challenged theory, it has become apparent that the ‘‘conduit’’ model at times is too restrictive. Since interpreters occupy the unique position of having the most complete awareness of what is transpiring among all parties linguistically and culturally, they often face the need to go beyond merely transferring information to mediating any miscommunications caused by institutional, language, or cultural barriers. As such, the interpreter’s role has expanded to allow circumstances in which they may also act as ‘‘culture brokers’’ or even ‘‘advocates’’. In reality, the dynamics of the interpreting session demand a balance of trust, power, and control among all participants. This article will focus on the professional parameters that guide interpreters in deciding when to move beyond a neutral role in the best interests of the parties involved or when intervention adversely affects desired outcomes.
Code of ethics, communication, conscience, culture, patient advocacy
Loach, Barbara L., "A Time to Speak and a Time to Keep Silent: Professional Ethics, Conscience, and the Medical Interpreter" (2019). English, Literature, and Modern Languages Faculty Publications. 318.