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May 16, 1986

Traduttore, Traditore-Reply

JAMA. 1986;255(19):2601-2602. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370190084019

In Reply.—  Dr Caccamise is quite right—interpretation problems are not unique to medicine. For example, in Hawaii lawyers state that problems have arisen because the interpreters are not behaving as a "faithful echo" of the defendent, but rather are presenting the communication they (the interpreters) feel will be most acceptable to the judge. Since no one else in the courtroom can understand both the language of the defendant and English, there is no one to check on the interpreter.1The risks are well known in international politics, wherein each side brings its own interpreters and thereby has the advantage of monitoring the other's messages. Dr Caccamise's phrase traduttore, traditore brings out a major issue for monolinguals, a sense that the interpreter will betray intent or meanings and alter purpose. Medical personnel as well as patients blame interpreters for failures, real or perceived. The challenge is to make an ally