Children Translating for Parents…Why it’s Illegal
A few months ago, Comedian Cristela Alonzo started a tweet sharing her experiences as her family’s interpreter. Many comments from both Latino and other minority groups sharing similar experiences followed. Mostly they discussed their fears of getting it wrong or the anguish of being present for a mother’s cancer diagnoses. The experiences posted on these tweets took on a survivor group feeling, and rightly so.
These children -now adults – were indeed victimized by the healthcare system that did not uphold their Civil Rights. According to Civil Rights Laws Title VI, all hospitals are required to provide trained interpreters to their Limited English Proficient patients free of charge. Furthermore, family members in particular children should never be used, as it posses not only a Civil Rights violation but a HIPAA confidentiality violation as well.
The sad truth is that most hospitals are getting away with these infractions because they know that this community will not readily sue them. Over 50% of hospitals are still utilizing family and in particular children to conduct translations and interpretations in clear disregard of the laws.
Most hospitals site a shortage of trained medical interpreters as their reason for not complying with the law, yet many training companies such as MiTio.org exist and have trained hundreds of bilingual people to become medical interpreters. Many of these graduates have gone on to also become certified medical interpreters. The time for excuses is over, hospitals need to fully comply with the laws or they will see an influx in lawsuits for their failures to fully hire and employ trained medical interpreters/translators.