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Medical Interpreting and the Law in the European Union

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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.

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


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