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How do I get an Interpreter for Medical Appointments?

The person who calls to make a medical appointment for you should always tell the office assistant or healthcare provider that you will need an interpreter.  If an interpreter is not requested at the time the appointment is scheduled, the clinic may not have an interpreter ready when you come.  That means you may then have to make an appointment for another day.

Using Friends or Relatives as Interpreters

Children should not be used as health care interpreters.  This is wrong for both you and the child.  Using family members or friends as interpreters might keep you from getting good care, because they may not have the special skills and knowledge that medical interpreters have. Also, your medical information is confidential (private).

Friends, relatives or children may make mistakes that could lead to wrong diagnoses or other problems.  Their feelings may get in the way, causing them to change or add information.  It may not be appropriate for friends, relatives or children to tell you bad news and they may not give you all the information you need about your diagnosis or treatment plans.

What to do if an Interpreter is Not Available

If a health care worker tells you to bring your own interpreter, tell them that the law may require that an interpreter be provided.  If they do not have someone who speaks your language on their staff, ask them to phone the Language Line at 1-800-874-9426, or another phone interpreter service. 

If the provider refuses to give you an interpreter, you have the right to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at 1-800-368-1019.  You do not have to tell your name when you file a complaint.

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