5 Things Medical Interpreters Need to Know About Informed Consent

informed consent

Connecting Cultures would like to thank Cynthia Peinado Hermosillo for contributing this article in which she generously highlights the topic of her upcoming presentation for the 9th Annual TAHIT Educational Symposium!

You are at an interpreting assignment at the hospital, and a clinician hands you a multiple page consent form, tells you to “read it to the patient” and then turns to walk away. A flood of questions enters your mind: Is this your responsibility? Can you do this ethically? Do you stop the clinician from leaving? Does the clinician ask this of other interpreters? What is the clinician’s responsibility when obtaining consent? Is this even legal?

Interpreters need to be aware of the problems that this dilemma presents and how to successfully navigate these scenarios so that informed consent can truly be given by the patient and obtained by the provider.

These are just some of the things interpreters need to know about informed consent:

  1. Providers need to ensure informed consent is obtained for any treatment regardless of language preference. It is the provider’s responsibility.
  2. There are regulatory entities, such as CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), HHS (Health & Human Services) and others, that set the requirements for obtaining informed consent.
  3. Not all states have the same healthcare regulations.
  4. There are a variety of scenarios where interpreters may be called to interpret informed consent. Be prepared.
  5. As medical interpreters, our service is not only essential, it is indispensable. 

If you are attending this year’s TAHIT Symposium, I invite you to attend the workshop Informed Consent – Why We Should be Concerned where I’ll present a more detailed analysis of what informed consent involves, navigating difficulties of Limited English Persons, even those with limited education or reading ability and how interpreters and providers can work together to ensure informed consent and full communication is taking place.  

Cynthia Peinado Hermosillo is a Healthcare Quality Consultant, Spanish Translator and Certified Medical Interpreter and owner of English Spanish Consulting. She has 25 years of language access and patient care experience in a wide variety of medical specialties. Cynthia’s experience includes health administration departments such as Risk Management, Patient Advocacy, Training and Development. Cynthia currently works and an interpreter trainer, and interprets via OPI, VRI, and onsite.


Will you be attending the 9th Annual TAHIT Educational Symposium September 25 & 26, 2015 in Galveston, Texas? Be sure to attend Cynthia's presentation Informed Consent - Why We Should Be Concerned for an even more in-depth discussion and analysis of this topic!