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California and drug policy

“Do no harm.” That is one of the many things that we take into oath as medical students and possibly one of the most important things to remember during our future career to maintain a trusting patient-doctor relationship, After all, no one comes into the hospital expecting the doctor to make things worse. Yet, this promise of doing no harm becomes more difficult with a communication barrier, more precisely for individuals who cannot read or understand English.

NPR states that California pharmacists are resisting translating medicine labels. The concern raised by these healthcare professionals are the risks for malpractice due to pharmacists not being able to check and catch potential translation error. I could understand this liability issue. I also think someone should really investigate the cost to benefit ratio of putting such labels onto these bottles before we start pointing fingers and asking for a change.

The issue raised in NPR was at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic in Sacramento, actually run by my alma mater University of California, Davis. The clinic targets underserved patients, mainly of Asian descent, that are unable to obtain adequate healthcare due to language barriers and socioeconomic status. I understand that having a translated label for this population would be helpful. In an ideal society with an unlimited budget I would definitely advocate for the translations, but, unfortunately we do not.

Some things to consider before hiring people and putting in dollars to make this happen is for us to evaluate the non-English speaking individuals ease of access to a translator, such as their children or friend that are bilingual. There is also google translate and public libraries with computers for those with no other options. I just used google to translate the phrase “take one tablet after a meal every day for ten days” into Japanese (which I speak fluently) and it was correct. I know this may sound cruel, but with limited resources and time, we should look into the pros and cons before jumping in and spending more money onto something that might have a simpler and cheaper solution. If there is an actual need to justify the effort, then let’s do it! I can help! But like NPR says, this issue is only at the beginning stages and more research should be done.

~Will, Summer Research Intern


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