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Why Accuracy is Critical to Medical Translations

The importance of high levels of accuracy in medical translations for the life sciences industry.

Verity Hartley at LanguageWire Verity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 3 minutes

In medical translations, there can be no room for error. A wrong word can sometimes even mean the difference between life and death.

In the tragic case of Willie Ramirez from South Florida, USA, it was the misunderstanding of one word, 'intoxicado', that caused his treatable brain bleed to be missed with devastating consequences.

In Cuban Spanish, 'intoxicado' signifies an illness brought on by something you have eaten or drunk. Willie wrongly assumed that his intense headache was being caused by something he had consumed at a restaurant earlier that day. This was misinterpreted by the hospital staff as a drug overdose, and he was treated as such. By the time they realised their mistake, it was too late.

The results tragically left Willie a quadriplegic for life. The hospital was sued for $71 million dollars, and Willie's mother, who took her son to the hospital, has chastised herself ever since for using the 'wrong word'.

What are Medical Translations?

This example highlights the risks of not having professional translators available in medical facilities. But within the sphere of life sciences, there are lots of types of translation that require professional medical translation services.


In health centres, hospitals or doctor's offices, non-native speakers may need a professional hospital interpreter to help them understand what critical information the doctor is relaying and make the patient fully understood.

Labelling and Inserts

Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies need to ensure that the right information is printed on their labels, including dosage, instructions for usage, and side effects. Medical devices and surgical equipment would also fall into this category as they need to be properly labelled to avoid malpractice.

Scientific and Technical Translation

Research reports, studies, clinical trials and interpreted data all need to be translated by an expert medical translator who understands the terms and the data represented exactly in both languages.

Medical Documentation

Any leaflets or information documentation, both online and in print, that is needed to keep the public well-informed must be accurately translated into numerous language variants. This includes any marketing or advertising materials for new drugs that must accurately represent the product.

Educational Material

Scientists and medical professionals require continuous ongoing training to keep their skills in their prime. Educational textbooks and eLearning materials must be kept up to date and accurately translated to ensure the highest standard of training is maintained.

The Consequences of Inaccurate Translations

Inaccurate medical translations could have wide-reaching consequences that heavily impact people's lives.

  • Loss of life, permanent disability or impact on a patient's lifestyle
  • Malpractice lawsuits and loss of licenses to practice or manufacture goods
  • Delays in the clinical trials that halt scientific progress
  • Reputation damage for companies and individuals

Expert translators can help both individuals and businesses avoid these serious consequences of medical mistranslations.

Work with a Medical Translations Expert

For high-quality medical translations, you need to ensure that you work with a Language Service Provider who can team you up with the best experts in their respective fields. Experts not only with scientific expertise but also a deep understanding of the culture and the language.

If you would like to know more about how LanguageWire can help your business produce high-quality and accurate technical or medical translations, then please fill in the form below, and someone will be in contact.

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