Medical ethics concepts2018-09-22T21:05:32+00:00

These materials are supporting documentation for concepts presented during the Gaucha Translations medical interpreting ethics training.

As Helen Eby explained in a Workers’ Compensation hearing:

The description of the court interpreter’s role is much simpler. The role is “to put the limited English speaker on the same footing as an English speaker.” In our introductions, court interpreters tell the people we interpret for these things:

  • I will not explain anything.
  • I will not omit or add anything.
  • If you have a question, you get to ask, and if you want to insult the judge, go ahead. I will interpret your insults, your anger, everything you say. You have a right to ask all the questions you want to ask. Please do. I will interpret all of them.
  • If you do not understand something, say so. It could be that you are from a different place than I am. That is OK. We will work it out. If I do not understand you, I will do the same.
  • I am going to keep a professional distance so the other party does not think we are getting too chummy and throw your case out. Attorneys do not like that. I am over here, waiting for us to be called, so I do not invade your privacy.

Note: Medical practitioners have asked Helen Eby why interpreters talk so much with patients in the waiting room and commented that it seems unprofessional. Helen Eby has also observed that when she interprets misunderstandings straight through, court interpreter-style, there is almost never a need for advocacy per NCIHC guidelines. Therefore, she recommends following the Oregon Court Interpreter Ethics in most cases, which empower the patient and the doctor to clear up misunderstandings themselves.

Helen emphasizes the aspects of the interpreting Codes of Ethics that are accepted in all fields, and teaches that the other aspects must be handled with extreme care, and if possible, avoided. Following the tenets that are not accepted by all fields is not generally mandatory in the scenarios. She teaches interpreters to adjust to the scenarios in which they are working, using the DC-S presentation she has developed.

This presentation was developed based on a series of eight online presentations of two hours each by Robyn Dean, a leader in the ASL interpreting field.


ASTM F2089 − 15

Standard Practice for Language Interpreting

  1. Code of Professional Conduct

8.1 All parties, including the clients, shall be aware that interpreters perform their duties in accordance with a code of professional conduct.

8.2 This code of professional conduct reflects the standards of integrity, professionalism, and confidentiality by which all interpreters shall abide. It enumerates established standards of professional responsibility to the public, the client, colleagues, and the profession at large. Given the variety of settings in which interpreters perform, individual institutions may find it useful to complement the code of professional conduct with guidelines designed to meet the specific demands of the organizational setting in which interpreters will be expected to work (see “Related Material” at the end of this standard for further reading).

8.3 Impartiality—The interpreter shall maintain a neutral attitude during an interpreting assignment. An interpreter shall be able to express clearly and convincingly different views or opinions on any issue in any discussion without allowing his/her own views to interfere.

8.3.1 Conflicts of Interest—The interpreter shall disclose any real or perceived conflict of interest that may exist or may create an appearance of impropriety or a potential violation of the code of professional conduct. In the interest of protecting the client and the professional integrity of the interpreter, the interpreter shall not hesitate to withdraw from an assignment.

8.4 Confidentiality—The interpreter shall not divulge any information obtained through his/her assignments including, but not limited to, information found in documents or other written materials. Confidentiality may be breached only when it is a legal requirement.

8.5 Competency—The interpreter shall not knowingly accept any assignment beyond his/her interpreting ability or for which he/she lacks an adequate understanding of the subject matter or cultural context or both. In situations in which the interpreter cannot easily disqualify him/herself from an assignment, the interpreter shall inform the client of his/her limitations.

8.6 Accuracy—The interpreter shall always express the source language message in a thorough and faithful manner. The interpreter shall:

8.6.1 Omit or add nothing,

8.6.2 Give consideration to linguistic variations in both the source and target languages, and

8.6.3 Preserve the tone and spirit of the source language message.

8.7 Professional Development—The interpreter shall continually develop his/her skills and knowledge through:

8.7.1 Steady practice;

8.7.2 Formal professional training;

8.7.3 Ongoing continuing education;

8.7.4 Ad hoc terminology research;

8.7.5 Regular and frequent interaction with colleagues and specialists in related fields; and

8.7.6 Staying abreast of current issues, laws, policies, rules, and regulations that affect his/her profession.

8.8 Professional Demeanor—Interpreters shall:

8.8.1 Be punctual;

8.8.2 Be prepared;

8.8.3 Be polite, respectful, and tactful towards all parties, including colleagues;

8.8.4 Be dressed appropriately; and

8.8.5 Avoid attracting undue attention to him/herself.

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