Barriers to communication in the clinical consultation: how language barriers can affect consent

Tharani Abeysekera


Communication forms an essential basis to the doctor-patient relationship, fostering trust and improving patient care. Patient autonomy has been at the forefront of Western medicine for decades, with informed consent playing a vital role in ensuring patients are at the centre of their care. However, there are also large populations of patients who do not speak a common language with their healthcare providers, and may rely on ad hoc interpreters - such as family members - or professional interpreters for consent and medical information. This presents an ethical, practical, and cultural issue to the idea of informed consent and patient autonomy, and thus must be dealt with systematically to prevent patient outcomes from being impaired.

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