Imagine you're an 18-year-old enjoying a night out with your friends. Everything is normal until you start having a splitting headache. You are in your friend's car on your way to your girlfriend's house. You blame the headache on the smell of gasoline in your friend's car. When you get to your girlfriend's house, you can't see right and you are barely conscious. You are rushed to the hospital and, by the time you wake up, you are paralyzed. This is what happened to Willie Ramirez, who had a brain bleed that left him a quadriplegic for life.

What if I told you Willie did not have to go through this?

The hemorrhage that Willie experienced should have been treatable. The problem is the Ramirez family did not have access to a Spanish medical translation. The Cuban family told the doctors that Willie had been intoxicado. The doctors assumed that "intoxicado" was equivalent to "intoxicated" and treated him accordingly. While Willie suffered an intracerebellar hemorrhage that continued to bleed for two days, the doctors believed he had suffered an intentional drug overdose.

"Intoxicado" and "intoxicated": similar in sound, different in meaning

It is completely understandable why someone would assume "intoxicado" and "intoxicated" have the same meaning. I mean, this is the case with "ocupado" and "occupied", "aceptado" and "accepted", "asociado" and "associated" and the list goes on. Unfortunately, "intoxicado" and "intoxicated" were the exception to the rule that lead to a devastating misdiagnosis. This is just one example of English and Spanish terms that have similar phonetics, yet different meanings.

The importance of medical translations

The South Florida hospital would have surely spent less money on a medical translation than on the $71 million worth law suit. Proper diagnosis is sure to be a challenge when the doctors, nurses and other healthcare advisors do not speak the same language. This is why medical translation is needed to accurately convey the patient's medical history, prescriptions, clinical trial protocols and instructions on medical devices written in a foreign language.


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, translation jobs will grow by 29% between 2014 and 2024. This shows that medical translation can be a promising career for those who have excellent communication skills in their working languages, as well as a thorough knowledge in medical science. A medical translator must have an in-depth knowledge of the medical field as well as the standard terminology in the subject. The accuracy level demanded by medical translations can highly be justified when human lives come into play.

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