From Iceland — "No Reason" Why Interpreters Can't Be Allowed in Blood Banks

“No Reason” Why Interpreters Can’t Be Allowed in Blood Banks

Published November 25, 2010

An immigrants rights expert told the Grapevine that privacy and confidentiality should not be an issue in letting interpreters accompany a foreigner who wants to donate blood, as “a great number” of interpreters already work in the health care field.
As the Grapevine reported, Thomas Dähling, a German national who has been living in Iceland for about one and a half years, wanted to donate blood and fulfilled every requirement to do so. However, because he could not speak Icelandic, he was turned away, even after offering to come with an interpreter.
The Grapevine contacted the Blood Bank to ask more about the situation. Dr. Sveinn Guðmundsson, the head doctor at the Blood Bank, told us, “The person donating blood has to be able to understand questions on a questionnaire that we give to potential donors. As these questions are of a personal nature, it is a question of privacy that there be no one else present for the interview, even if the potential donor permits the translator to be present. We do this both to ensure the security of any potential recipients, and to protect the privacy of a potential donor.”
However, the Grapevine contacted Barbara Kristvínsson, a councillor at the immigrant information centre Þjónustumiðstöð Miðborgar og Hlíða on the matter, who expressed surprise that “privacy and confidentially” reasons would be cited for not allowing an interpreter to be present during the questioning and donation process.
“Professional interpreters sign confidentiality agreements when they are hired,” she said in part. “And a great number of them work in the health care field, explaining medical procedures, translating highly personal and confidential questions.”
She found it odd that they would turn someone away who even offered to bring their own interpreter. “Professional interpreters work in the health care field every day, translating private information regarding cancer, death, sexually transmitted diseases and the like. I can’t see how answering questions about your sexual and drug use history at a blood bank would be any different than this.”

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