When Interpreters Cross The Line

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Whether you’re a court or medical interpreter, the consequences of unethical behavior can be very serious, not to mention costly. For example, an interpreter who doesn’t follow the protocols and standards of their profession can risk ruining their career and force a hospital or court to spend additional resources finding another interpreter. This, in turn, can hinder an LEP individual from receiving meaningful access to quality healthcare or the justice system.

Nonetheless, and unfortunately, ethical violations still occur. These instances raise concerns about the rigidity of the qualifications for becoming an interpreter and perhaps point to certification as a requirement in the future.

Here are some recent examples of unethical interpreters:

– In May of this year, a Louisiana interpreter was indicted on five counts of wire fraud. The interpreter was accused of contacting clients of the Public Defender’s Office and getting them to make illegal payments to her by saying they would be deported if they did not.

– An Australian interpreter admitted to influencing a voter to vote for a particular candidate. However, the criminal charge against the interpreter was later dismissed because they were not an election official and, thus, not subject to the penalties.

– In Washington, an interpreter was charged with felony theft for defrauding the state. According to court papers, the interpreter overbilled the state for mileage and appointments that never happened.

There are many resources available to help interpreters become acquainted with or maintain the ethical codes of conduct. Ethics courses are available for both court interpreters and medical interpreters that contain the standards and protocols of each profession. These courses contain hypothetical scenarios that challenge an interpreter’s knowledge of the various ethical canons and present solutions to dilemmas that interpreters commonly encounter in the field.

Likewise, training guides for court and medical interpreters are also available so that the code of ethics can easily be referred to when interpreters are on assignments.

Interpreters who follow the code of ethics not only uphold high standards of professionalism, but they also help improve the quality and consistency of the interpreting profession.