Ethical dilemmas
Thread poster: SS AH
SS AH
English to Spanish
+ ...
Aug 28, 2014

Greetings for everybody.

I am wondering if you can help me with your experience I am a novice and I would like to know some examples in real life at doing this task of interpreting regarding to ethics where you have to make a decision.
Case studies where you have to decide what to do.It does not matter what kind of task was requested by your client.

Thanks in advance.


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 12:20
Romanian to English
+ ...
ethical dilemma Aug 29, 2014

Hi,

Recently I had to interpret during the sentencing phase of a federal criminal case. I worked on this case since the 3 defendants were arrested and I interpreted for all three of them during different stages of criminal procedure. All three agreed to work with the prosecution in order to get a more lenient sentence.
Two of them helped somehow the investigating agency but the third one provided very valuable information. As a result of the information he provided, a criminal group was arrested on the other coast of the country. I have to mention that during the „proffer” (when the defendant collaborates with the enforcement agents in the presence of the prosecutor) the prosecutor worked on other stuff and did not pay attention to the discussion.

At sentencing, the judge asked the prosecution about each defendant's contribution that led to the arrest of the criminal organization. To my surprise, the prosecutor answered that all three contributed the same amount. As a result, all three received the same sentence. I was highly disturbed because I knew as a matter of fact that one of them had a huge contribution. As a former prosecutor in my country, I found it highly unfair, but I was powerless. I was the only one that was aware of what each of the defendants said. Since I was there only as an interpreter, I had to keep my mouth shut, but it rattles me even now. And hypocritically we brag about our judicial fairness.

Lee

[Edited at 2014-08-29 00:38 GMT]


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 01:20
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Gut feeling Aug 29, 2014

If you are a freelancer, don't do a job that you don't want to do. It's a disservice to everybody involved.

If you already have your foot in it, either say it out loud and walk away, or bite your tongue and go through with it.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:20
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Lee Aug 29, 2014

lee roth wrote:
Recently I had to interpret during the sentencing phase of a federal criminal case.


Who was your client in this case? The three defendants, the attornies, or the judicial system? I think that you have the right (if not the duty) to inform your "client" of what had happened, at least.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:20
Member (2008)
Italian to English
My 10c Aug 29, 2014

SS AH wrote:

Greetings for everybody.

I am wondering if you can help me with your experience I am a novice and I would like to know some examples in real life at doing this task of interpreting regarding to ethics where you have to make a decision.
Case studies where you have to decide what to do.It does not matter what kind of task was requested by your client.

Thanks in advance.


One example: a while ago I was asked to translate a long series of market research questions, for interviewers to put to respondents asking them about their preferred brand of cigarettes, the taste, the packaging, etc.

I politely refused to do it.

The example given by Lee is much more serious. A real problem. Thanks for posting it, Lee. That must be something you think about, a lot.

[Edited at 2014-08-29 08:34 GMT]


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Danik 2014
Brazil
German to Portuguese
+ ...
Who is going to be harmed by it? Aug 29, 2014

I think in ethical dilemmas the great question is what harm is going done to others. In the example of Lee, two of the defendants were clearly benefited by the prosecutors "error". But would the chief informant have got a lighter sentence
if the difference between him and the two others had been established? If not, I would give my conscience a rest, Lee.
With translations, other as with interpretations, you usually know beforehand if your ethics agree with it or not.


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SS AH
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Aug 29, 2014

lee roth wrote:

Hi,

Recently I had to interpret during the sentencing phase of a federal criminal case. I worked on this case since the 3 defendants were arrested and I interpreted for all three of them during different stages of criminal procedure. All three agreed to work with the prosecution in order to get a more lenient sentence.
Two of them helped somehow the investigating agency but the third one provided very valuable information. As a result of the information he provided, a criminal group was arrested on the other coast of the country. I have to mention that during the „proffer” (when the defendant collaborates with the enforcement agents in the presence of the prosecutor) the prosecutor worked on other stuff and did not pay attention to the discussion.

At sentencing, the judge asked the prosecution about each defendant's contribution that led to the arrest of the criminal organization. To my surprise, the prosecutor answered that all three contributed the same amount. As a result, all three received the same sentence. I was highly disturbed because I knew as a matter of fact that one of them had a huge contribution. As a former prosecutor in my country, I found it highly unfair, but I was powerless. I was the only one that was aware of what each of the defendants said. Since I was there only as an interpreter, I had to keep my mouth shut, but it rattles me even now. And hypocritically we brag about our judicial fairness.

Lee

[Edited at 2014-08-29 00:38 GMT]


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SS AH
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Aug 29, 2014

I am grateful with your comments.

I would like to have more similar cases and what were your decisions.

[Edited at 2014-08-29 20:07 GMT]


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xxxAdrian MM.
Local time: 18:20
French to English
+ ...
Not enough background explanation Aug 29, 2014

SS AH wrote:

Greetings for everybody.

I am wondering if you can help me with your experience I am a novice and I would like to know some examples in real life at doing this task of interpreting regarding to ethics where you have to make a decision.


Ethics start with correcting your colleagues' mistakes, such as greetings for = to everybody and regarding to = regarding or as regards.

Also answering such an open-ended question in a vacuum for a poster purporting to be based in Central America seems to pose an ethical dilemma in itself.

Perhaps you can fill us on your motives and background.

[Edited at 2014-08-29 20:09 GMT]


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 12:20
Romanian to English
+ ...
About clients Aug 29, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:

Who was your client in this case? The three defendants, the attorneys, or the judicial system? I think that you have the right (if not the duty) to inform your "client" of what had happened, at least.

Since I worked in this case from the very beginning, I was paid by the court for court proceedings, by the prosecution for proffer and by the public defenders' office for the meetings between the defendants and their attorneys. Therefore, all of them were my clients during the procedures.

My dilemma was if I should have told his public defender to put me on the witness stand. I did not, and I regret it.


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 12:20
Romanian to English
+ ...
the cooperating witness Aug 29, 2014

Danik 2014 wrote:

I think in ethical dilemmas the great question is what harm is going done to others. In the example of Lee, two of the defendants were clearly benefited by the prosecutors "error". But would the chief informant have got a lighter sentence
if the difference between him and the two others had been established? If not, I would give my conscience a rest, Lee.
With translations, other as with interpretations, you usually know beforehand if your ethics agree with it or not.


To answer your question: absolutely! he deserved to have a lighter sentence, not by much, but I estimated he would get 6 months less for his valuable contribution.

The prosecutor did a huge disservice to the judicial system since the inmates talk between themselves and the conclusion is : don't help the prosecution because they won't help you.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I worked in criminal law enforcement for over 12 years and people who break the law deserve to be punished ... but with fairness.


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 12:20
Romanian to English
+ ...
it is not about gut feeling Aug 29, 2014

Lincoln Hui wrote:

If you are a freelancer, don't do a job that you don't want to do. It's a disservice to everybody involved.

If you already have your foot in it, either say it out loud and walk away, or bite your tongue and go through with it.


If you are a professional you must accept the risks that come with your job. I enjoy helping all parties to understand each-other and sail smoothly through the complex judicial process.


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SS AH
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for corrections Aug 31, 2014

Well as a matter of fact,I am studying translations and interpretations course , I am registered in an ethics course, and I am researching about real ethical dilemmas this job presents.
It has the purpose to reflect about real situations and how we can handle them.
I have read some experiences from translators who have been working on that field and they have had the the will to help me with real cases.Nevertheless if it is an ethical dilemma sharing yours never mind.


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liviu roth
United States
Local time: 12:20
Romanian to English
+ ...
ethical dilemma in a medical setting Sep 1, 2014

I remember a case where a large hospital, for liability reasons, hired me as an interpreter to spend 8-10 hrs/day with a patient who had already five surgeries. Initially, the patient was supposed to have a same-day laparoscopic surgery. Unfortunately, the doctor operating the patient punctured her hernial sac and the patient went into septic shock. After about four months of being every day with the patient, the hospital decided, for financial reasons, to move her to another unit with less qualified medical staff. After two days I noticed a profound worsening of the patient’s health. I told the nurse to call the doctor and let him know that the patient is dehydrated (she wasn't able to drink any fluids and the medical staff refused to put an IV without the doctor’s order). At the end of the day I requested to talk to the head-nurse of that unit. I told her that I have been with the patient for more than four months and therefore I knew her very well. Her reaction? “You are here as interpreter, it is none of your business”.
Next day, when I showed up at her room, she was gone to another unit, even less qualified to handle her situation. I went directly to her supervising doctor and told her that the patient is in coma because of dehydration. Within ten minutes they moved the patient to the Emergency room. Three nurses and a doctor worked on her and were able to bring her back. I asked the doctor what was the cause of her coma and his response “deep dehydration” !!!!!
Unfortunately, the Code of ethics does not teach new interpreters how to handle these kind of situations. From an “ethical” (by the book) standpoint I should have done nothing. It is not in our job description to do that and we are not paid to do that. Correct, but what about some common sense and behaving like a human being?

lee


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JaneD  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 18:20
Member (2009)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Makes my ethical dilemmas look very unimportant Sep 1, 2014

Lee, thanks very much for describing your dilemmas, both of which must have been very difficult for you to deal with. I know you're talking about interpreting, not translation, but all the same I'm very much comforted in my decision to keep away from both medical and legal texts! I'm so glad that you managed to achieve a proper response in the case of the patient you'd been working with - and of course you were absolutely right to act as you did.

Regarding the court case, I think your attitude (that the prosecutor did his "side" no future favours) is correct. But it wasn't - at least directly - a life and death matter, so perhaps this *is* a case where the interpreter should be content with just interpreting? Though the injustice would certainly worry me too.

Jane


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