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Medical Dramas & Medical Interpreting–––The Good Doctor

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

The Good Doctor is a TV drama about an autistic surgeon named Shaun Murphy. He has an unhappy past, but he also has superb skills. To save patients’ lives, Shaun always challenges the mindsets of other doctors.

One of the episodes is about the protagonist, Shaun, teaching some new doctors about how to perform surgeries correctly. He was first told to guide them only, but not to interrupt them. But it seems that Shaun does not quite understand the instructions.

In the show, many medical terms related to neurology, including those on surgical operations, tools required for surgery, medication and methods applied for patients are introduced. Besides names of common diseases and symptoms, one needs to gain knowledge about the operation of the whole industry. We may not need to translate the entire process of the surgical operation to the target audience in our future tasks, but we may encounter some of the terms, especially when we are translating a doctor’s suggestion, and explanation to the patients about how his/her diseases can be cured. For example, how the surgical operation is carried out, what anesthesia medications will be used and the possible risks of surgeries.

In our interpreting practice, we have also learnt that it is important to conduct enough research and studies before translating for a specific industry. If possible, participating in the industry helps a lot, because you can know what specific terms are commonly used in their industries. If not, watching related TV dramas can also provide us with a brief understanding, but we should make sure that the information is accurate.

Interpreting for children in a medical setting requires a great deal of caution and attention. A majority of children probably won't be able to understand all the medical terminology that is commonly used and there is a need to explain in a more direct way to ensure a positive healthcare outcome. For example: rephrase standard medical terms such as “cardiologist” to “heart doctor”, “dressing change” to “changing clothes”, etc. Also, tips for pediatric interpreting include a better self-control, including pausing more often and speaking at a slower pace. Sometimes, there are cases similar to the episode of the drama, the pediatric patient’s parents would like to keep health information hidden from the patient, like the fact that he was actually suffering from terminal bone cancer. As an interpreter, to tell or not to tell, the answer varies by cases. While the parents’ perspective is understandable, evidence in support of truth-telling should be provided. There are concerns about withholding information from a patient. In complex medical situations, most clinicians would not treat patients who are unaware of their diagnosis or prognosis. And all the above are advice on how to determine how much information should be revealed to pediatric patients.

Unexpected things such as conflicts between patients and doctors may happen during a medical consultation or surgery. A medical interpreter should be capable of handling emergencies and keep themselves calm. In The Good Doctor, the main character, Shaun Murphy, is an autistic surgical doctor. Therefore, in many situations, he loses his control of emotions and becomes irrational and anxious especially when he is provoked by one’s action or verbal behaviour. A medical interpreter should be responsible for meditation between two parties. Also, in urgent situations, such as emergencies in surgery or accidents, a medical interpreter should keep calm and make themselves accountable for the accuracy of the interpretation. In The Good Doctor, there was an accident and 25 casualties were sent to the hospital with serious injuries. If there were interpreters, they should stay calm and focus on the accuracy of the interpretation. In medical interpreting, if the interpreter misinterprets a single word, it can cause very serious consequences.


Anaphylaxis 過敏

Biopsy 活體組織切片

Bone-marrow 骨髓

Congenital heart defect 先天性心臟缺陷

Cyst 囊腫

Lesion 病變

Local anaesthetic 局部麻醉

Nystagmus 眼球震顫

Oncologist 腫瘤科醫生

Osteosarcoma 骨肉瘤

Pathology 病理報告

Pulmonary artery 肺動脈

Temporal bone 側頭骨

Prepared by:

KIANG Hin Cheung, Henry

YAU Oi Ying, Henrietta

CHAN Hiu Laam, Annie

LEE Wing Ping, Jack

Edited by:

Dr. Janice Pan

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