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Language barriers and consent to treatment

February 6, 2014

One of the fundamental issues in healthcare delivery is the ability to administer treatment with the full consent of the individual after being provided with enough facts to make a sound decision to accept/participate in treatment. Sounds like a very good idea to meet the ethical code of practice. However, the very large elephant in the room is the that fact that as clinicians we are beginning to see an increase in patients who do not have English as their first language. I have begun to wonder what support I would get if such a patient, on reflection, at home after treatment decides that he/she was not entirely sure what was going on because of the communication barrier. What would happen if such a patient decided to raise a complaint because their expectations do not match realistic outcome? What is the realistic outcome of any intervention within the concept of accountability and responsibility? It is a large and ‘ugly’ elephant that I fear is going to make an almighty mess when the ‘you know what’ hits the fan. Help!!!


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