Cookies Policy

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

I accept this policy

Find out more here

Medical Interpreting and the Law in the European Union

No metrics data to plot.
The attempt to load metrics for this article has failed.
The attempt to plot a graph for these metrics has failed.
MyBook is a cheap paperback edition of the original book and will be sold at uniform, low price.

Buy this article

$30.00+ Tax (if applicable)
Add to Favorites

image of European Journal of Health Law

Abstract In 2011, the Danish government announced that from June that year it would no longer cover the costs of medical interpreters for patients who had been living in Denmark for more than seven years. The Dutch Ministry of Health followed with an even more draconian approach; from 1 January 2012, the cost of translation and interpreting would no longer be covered by the state. These two announcements led to widespread concern about whether or not there is a legal foundation for interpreter provision in healthcare. This article considers United Nations treaties, conventions from the Council of Europe and European Union law. European Union member states have been slow to sign up to international agreements to protect the rights of migrant workers. The European Union itself has only recently moved into the area of discrimination and it is unclear if the Race Directive covers language. As a result, access to interpreters in healthcare, where it exists, is dependent on national anti-discrimination legislation or on positive action taken at national or local level rather than on European or international law.

1. FN11) Eurostat. 2010. Europe in Figures, Eurostat Yearbook 2010,, retrieved 15 September 2011.
2. FN22) “Danish Politics: Far Right, Wrong Step”, The Economist, 17 June 2010.
3. FN33) E-mail communication.
4. FN44) Migrant Health Network,, retrieved 1 June 2011.
5. FN55) Dutch Government Coalition Agreement, 2010,, retrieved 2 January 2012.
6. FN66) S. Priebe, S. Sandhu, S. Dias, A. Gaddini, T. Greacen., E. Ioannidis, U. Kluge, A. Krasnik, M. Lamkaddem, V. Lorant, R. Puigpinósi Riera, A. Sarvary, J.J.F. Soares, M. Stankunas, C. Straßmayr, K. Wahlbeck, M. Welbel, and M. Bogic “Good practice in healthcare for migrants: views and experiences of care professionals in 16 European countries”, BMC Public Health 11 (187) (2011) 1-12.
7. FN77) E. Graham, T. Jacobs, T.S. Kwan-Gett and J. Cover, “Health services utilization by low-income limited English proficiency adults”, Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 10(3) (2008) 207-217.
8. FN88) A. Bischoff, K. Denhaerynck, “What do language barriers cost? An exploratory study among asylum seekers in Switzerland”, BMC Health Services Research 10 (248) (2010) 1-7.
9. FN99) E.A. Jacobs, L.S. Sadowski and P.R. Rathouz, “The Impact of an Enhanced Interpreter Service Intervention on Hospital Costs and Patient Satisfaction”, Journal of General Internal Medicine 22 (Suppl 2) (2007) 306-311.
10. FN1010) L.C. Hampers and J.E. McNulty, “Professional interpreters and bilingual physicians in a pediatric emergency department: effect on resource utilization”, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 156 (11) (2002) 1108-1113.
11. FN1111) Saving Mothers’ Lives Special Issue: Reviewing Maternal Deaths to Make Motherhood Safer: 2006-2008. The Eighth Report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom, BJOG An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Suppl. 1. (2011) 1-203.
12. FN1212) For an analysis of possible reasons why the EU member states have not ratified the Convention, see E. Mac Donald and R. Cholewinski “The Migrant Workers Convention in Europe 2007”,, retrieved 2 January 2012.
13. FN1313) Vo v. France (no. 53924/00) 8.7.2004.
14. FN1414) R.K. and A.K. v. United Kingdom. (no. 38000/05) 30.09.08.
15. FN1515) The 8 were Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
16. FN1616) O.M. Arnardóttir, “Multidimensional equality from within themes from the European Convention on Human Rights” in: D. Schiek and V. Chege (eds.), European Union Non-Discrimination Law (Oxford: Routledge-Cavendish, 2009) 53-67.
17. FN1717) Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union. 2007., retrieved 15 September 2011.
18. FN1818) Council of Europe Directorate of External Relations. 2009. “Overview of arrangements for co-operation between the Council of Europe and the European Union”,, retrieved 15 September 2011.
19. FN1919) The 15 EU member states that have signed and ratified the European Convention on Social and Medical Assistance are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The other three Council of Europe member states that have signed and ratified are Iceland, Norway and Turkey.
20. FN2020) The 17 EU member states that have ratified the revised Charter are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.
21. FN2121) E. Ellis, EU Anti-Discrimination Law, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) p. 324.
22. FN2222) The six member states were France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
23. FN2323) R. Andorno, “The Oviedo Convention: A European Legal Framework at the Intersection of Human Rights and Health Law”, Journal of International Biotechnology Law 2(I) (2005) 133-143.
24. FN2424) The 15 who both signed and ratified the Convention were Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The 6 signatory only countries were France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. The 6 countries that had neither signed nor ratified the Convention were Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom,, retrieved 15 September 2011.
25. FN2525) Council of Europe Recommendation 2006(18) of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Health Services in a Multicultural Society,, retrieved 22 September 2011.
26. FN2626) Council Conclusions on common values and principles in European Union health systems. (2006/C 146/01),, retrieved 14 August 2011.
27. FN2727) White Paper Together for Health: A Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013,, retrieved 15 August 2011.
28. FN2828) Solidarity in Health: Reducing Health Inequalities in the EU,, retrieved 15 August 2011.
29. FN2929) C. Newdick, “The European Court of Justice, Transnational Healthcare, and Social Citizenship — Accidental Death of a Concept?”, Wisconsin International Law Journal 26 (3) (2009) 845-868.
30. FN3030) Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the European Union. 2008,, retrieved 18 June 2011.
31. FN3131) Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 2010,, retrieved 18 June 2011.
32. FN3232) European Charter of Fundamental Rights 2000,, retrieved 18 June 2011.
33. FN3333) European Commission 2010 “Strategy for the effective implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights by the European Union”,, retrieved 18 June 2011.
34. FN3434) O. De Schutter, “The EU Fundamental Rights Agency: Genesis and Potential” in: K. Boyle (ed.), New Institutions for Human Rights Protection (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009), pp. 93-135.
35. FN3535), retrieved 24 June 2011.
36. FN3636), retrieved 24 June 2011.
37. FN3737) J.P. Lhernould and B. Schulte (eds), J.C. Fillon J. Hajdu and H. Verschueren, Think Tank Report 2010, Healthcare Provided during a Temporary Stay in Another Member State to Persons Who Do Not Fulfil Conditions for Statutory Health Insurance Coverage., retrieved 24 June 2011.
38. FN3838) EU Council Directive 2000,, retrieved 4 June 2011.
39. FN3939) M. Bell, I. Chopin, and F. Palmer 2007 “Developing Anti-Discrimination Law in Europe, The 25 EU Member States Compared”, European Network of Independent Experts in the Non-Discrimination Field, p. 19, European Commission,, retrieved 15 June 2011.
40. FN4040) S. Fredman, “Positive Rights and Positive Duties: Addressing Intersectionality”, 73-89, in supra note 16.
41. FN4141) Supra note 21.
42. FN4242) EU Agency for Fundamental Rights “Inequalities and multiple discrimination in access to healthcare” n.d.,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
43. FN4343) European Commission “Tackling Multiple Discrimination: Practices, Policies and Laws 2007”,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
44. FN4444) Proposal for a Council Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment. 2008,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
45. FN4545) Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Application of Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare. 2008, p. 12,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
46. FN4646) Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council. 2011, on the Application of Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
47. FN4747) World Health Organization. 1994. “A declaration on the promotion of patients’ rights in Europe”,, retrieved 24 June 2011.
48. FN4848) Active Citizenship Network. 2002. “European Charter of Patients’ Rights”,, retrieved 6 July 2011.
49. FN4949) Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law European Patient Rights. n.d.,, retrieved 6 July 2011.
50. FN5050) Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997,, retrieved 15 September 2011.
51. FN5151) M. Phelan, “Interpreting in Northern Ireland” Translation Ireland 18(2) (2010) 99-107,,com_docman/task,cat_view/gid,47/Itemid,16/.
52. FN5252) H. Skjeie, “Multiple equality claims in the practice of the Norwegian anti-discrimination agencies” 295-309; supra note 16.
53. FN5353) Norwegian Government, The Act on Prohibition ff Discrimination Based on Ethnicity, Religion, etc. 2006,, retrieved 18 June 2011.

Article metrics loading...


Affiliations: 1: School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, Dublin City University Dublin 9 Ireland


Can't access your account?
  • Tools

  • Add to Favorites
  • Printable version
  • Email this page
  • Subscribe to email alerts
  • Get permissions
  • Recommend to your library

    You must fill out fields marked with: *

    Librarian details
    Your details
    Why are you recommending this title?
    Select reason:
    European Journal of Health Law — Recommend this title to your library

    Thank you

    Your recommendation has been sent to your librarian.

  • Export citations
  • Key

  • Full access
  • Open Access
  • Partial/No accessInformation