Medical translation should always be carried out by a professional translator. Many medical translators work through translation agencies and are easy to find on the internet.

The Importance of Professional Medical Translation

The reason why it’s so important to use a trained medical translator is due to the nature of the work. For instance, if a mistake is made in the translation of a business contract it can be rectified. It will of course cause embarrassment and it might well lose you a client if they are very fussy, but the only thing that will get hurt in this case is your wallet.

However, a medical translation mistake can have serious consequences. For example, take the case of the American company who issued a set of instructions for knee replacement implants with an incorrect translation from English to German, which meant the packaging read that no cement was needed, when in fact it was.

This led to a number of patients having a knee implant fitted without cement and some of the patients had to have their operations carried out again. This mistake not only cost money in repeated surgeries, but no doubt also caused distress to the patients who had to be operated on a second time.


Medical interpretation too needs to be dealt with by a professional. This is because a trained medical interpreter will not only understand the words in the target language, but they will also be aware of the cultural differences. This means that the translator will know how the language is used and be aware that sometimes what appears to be a literal translation of a word is a mistake.

Take the case of Willie Ramirez. He was an 18-year-old Cuban athlete who was taken into hospital in the United States whilst comatose. His family, who spoke Spanish, explained to the medical staff that they thought he was ‘intoxicado’. The medical staff took this to mean that he had taken a drugs overdose. ‘intoxicado’ in Spanish actually means ‘poisoned’ and his family were saying that they thought he had food poisoning.

He was treated for a drugs overdose, when in fact he had suffered a brain haemorrhage and due to the delay in treating him he was left a quadriplegic. A professional interpreter would have known what the family were trying to explain and maybe doctors would have discovered what was wrong with him sooner.

Use a Professional

Language Insight is a translation agency with professionally trained medical translators and interpreters working for them. All of them have lived or are living in the country they translate to and from and they have either worked in the medical field, or are qualified by a professional translation or interpretation body.

If you would like more information about medical translation or interpretation, send us an email or give us a call.  Language Insight is a UK based translation agency supplying transcription, translation, localisation, interpretation and desk publishing services from offices in London and the North of England.