CLAS Standard 7: Competence of interpreters – Use of untrained individuals and/or minors as interpreters should be avoided

According to CLAS 7:

Untrained family, friends, minors, and staff often do not possess the necessary skills to provide meaningful language services. Moreover, given their relationship to the patient, the use of friends, family members, and minors may compromise the autonomy and confidentiality of the communication (AMA, 2006; Diamond & Jacobs, 2010).

Why not work with trusted family members who are bilingual?

The interpreter treats as confidential, within the treating team, all information learned in the performance of their professional duties, while observing relevant requirements regarding disclosure.

The patient may not want to say certain things in the hearing of a friend or family member, which can impact the diagnosis and treatment.

The interpreter strives to maintain impartiality and refrains from counseling, advising or projecting personal biases or beliefs.

When family members go to a medical appointment, they do so to provide family support, just like any family in a monolingual medical encounter. Being divided between the very important role of family support and the interpreting role is extremely stressful.

One of my students told me about a patient who went to an appointment, and the child ended up interpreting. Because of that, the patient did not feel free to disclose a condition. This delayed a diagnosis by a year, which complicated the treatment significantly!

Many of my students have interpreted as children. Their unanimous opinion, when asked if family members should interpret, is “NO!!!”