Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 December 2007
Informed consent is a fundamental principle of health care ethics. All patients should have equal opportunities in accessing information to help them make informed decisions about their treatments.
Literature on informed consent, translators in health care, non-English-speaking patients and the importance of communication and information, most specifically in radiotherapy, were reviewed. Western studies published between 1995 and 2005 were accessed and filtered though two eligibility screens and a critique framework to assess quality.
The evidence suggested that many non-English-speaking patients are not in a position to give true informed consent due to lack of interpreters. This may lead to health care professionals giving treatment without full consent. Written information for radiotherapy patients was often only available in English, apart from inner city areas.
There appears to be a scarcity of professional interpreters used in the health care setting; the most common practice is to use family members and friends to interpret. This practice results in breach of patient confidentiality, extra pressure on family members and filtration of information.
This patient group is often excluded from certain treatment opportunities such as clinical trials. Ideally, a fully accessible professional interpreting service should be available to allow non-English patients equal rights in accessing appropriate health care options and treatments.