Missing French translation of X-Ray manual/Fehlende Übersetzung eines Röntgenhandbuchs

This report on the n-tv site is headed Tragischer Übersetzungsfehler (tragic translation error).

Fehlinterpretationen einer englischen Bedienungsanleitung haben mindestens drei Krebspatienten in einem ostfranzösischen Krankenhaus das Leben gekostet. Durch den falschen Gebrauch einer Software sei es im Krankenhaus von Epinal in Lothringen in 23 Fällen zu Überdosierungen der Röntgenstrahlen gekommen, teilte Antoine Perrin vom Regionalinstitut für Krankenhausplanung ARH am Dienstag in Nancy mit. Vier Patienten seien seitdem gestorben, davon drei an den Folgen der Überdosierungen.

It looks as if there was no French version of an English manual for an X-Ray machine or procedure in Lorraine, and the staff made an error ‘by the misuse of software’ – presumably this was the software that controlled the dosage. As a result 23 patients were given too much radiation and three have died.

Exactly where the ‘translation error’ took place is not clear. Equipment produced in the EU has by law to be supplied with foreign-language instructions nowadays. Whether this was old equipment, or software or equipment outside the regulations, and who did what translation or interpreting is not clear (sometimes known as ‘tragic journalism error’). The rest of the article says the problem arose solely from a mistaken interpretation of the data, and those responsible are to be punished. Who those responsible are is not clear – probably radiologists – and if they can be punished, what criminal offence was involved? The radiation took place between May 2004 and August 2005.

Does anyone have more information about this? It must have been in the French press. The names involved are an Antoine Perrin, who announced this to the press in Nancy on Tuesday, and the French health minister Xavier Bertrand.

LATER NOTE: I found some French reports by searching for epinal hopital on Google. I haven’t yet found a mention of the English language. It seems to have been a software problem, and one of the radiologists disabled the controls on the device. Le Figaro, 2006
(Link found on the TT translation list at Yahoogroups)

EVEN LATER NOTE: Richard Schneider has investigated this in more detail and summarizes it (in German) at the Übersetzerportal. It appears some of the persons reporting the story didn’t understand French very well. The lack of an English translation of the manual was a subsidiary matter, and even if there had been a good translation, the overradiation would still have occurred – it resulted from a lack of proper procedures among the staff involved.

One thought on “Missing French translation of X-Ray manual/Fehlende Übersetzung eines Röntgenhandbuchs

  1. Hello Margaret

    I’ve done a lot of translation in that field in the past 7 years. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. For quality control, we don’t go as far as back translation, but we’re pretty thorough, three steps and a final client review, to make sure no patients get fried on the table. But I have seen other things, from other medical technology clients, that sincerely gave me a shock of horror. I don’t know how they can sell those expensive machines with such sloppily translated documentation.

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