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  #1  
Old 18 June 2014, 09:49 PM
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Icon81 Death by mistranslation

Comment: I remember hearing this years ago and I started hearing it again.
The story was that someone who spoke Spanish and did not speak English was
given a prescription with the instructions "Take once daily." In Spanish,
the word "once" means 11 and the person took 11 pills. Is this true?

Also discussed here:

http://msgboard.snopes.com/message/u.../t/000307.html
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  #2  
Old 19 June 2014, 08:10 AM
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Default Rx for a medical near-miss

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun...drugs-20130603
Quote:
In December, after seven years of exams, lectures and rounds, I received my medical license. Finally, I had the power to prescribe medications without the co-signature of my supervisor. "Be careful," she advised, "remember the story of 'once.'"

The story of "once" is a cautionary tale that — best as I am able to tell from Google — was adapted from a Spanish soap opera.
(Unfortunately, it looks like that's all we get in the article about the origins.)
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  #3  
Old 19 June 2014, 12:52 PM
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Quote:
The directions I wrote out may have worked, but then he received his first refill and a new pill bottle. Although many pharmacies in California (including some but not all large chains) print non-English directions on pill bottles, his did not.
From ganzfeld's article...

So not a mistranslation, just a new bottle, with no translated instructions.
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  #4  
Old 19 June 2014, 02:05 PM
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Read This!

Well, yes, that's not the story in question. The author is recounting a similar experience to the UL, which he had already heard previously:
Quote:
Shortly after I received my license, I had my own version.
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  #5  
Old 19 June 2014, 02:53 PM
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Soapbox

Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Well, yes, that's not the story in question. The author is recounting a similar experience to the UL, which he had already heard previously:
Yes, I saw that.

My point was that in his case, there was no mistranslation at all even though he was aware of the first "case" and thought he took pains to avoid it.

For example, I don't believe the word "take" and "daily", as written exist in spanish, so why would one think that " take once daily" would be "Not spanish word" "spanish word" "not spanish word"?
The reader may understand "once" as eleven, but eleven what?

The issue is not mistranslation. The issue is that medical directives are not regularly issued to patients in a language they can understand. In the article you posted, once the patient got a new bottle, he returned to his old habit of taking the medication twice daily, he didn't read the label, see the word "once" and start taking it eleven times a day.
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  #6  
Old 19 June 2014, 08:05 PM
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earlier this week I sent an email that indicated "take two 400mgs of motrin now, then six once an hour after that --"

I meant --

"take two 400mgs of motrin now, then one every 6 hours after that --"

the person who received the note -- asked me if I was trying to kill them --

I don't think anyone would accept taking 11 of the same pills at once would they?
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  #7  
Old 19 June 2014, 08:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alarm View Post
[...] he didn't read the label, see the word "once" and start taking it eleven times a day.
It's an interesting case but I don't see that it says much about the OP story except that other mistakes sometimes do happen. The reason I posted the OP is that the author claims the origin of the OP story was a spanish soap opera.
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  #8  
Old 21 June 2014, 07:56 AM
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Mexico The plural of ancedote is not data.

http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/u...6;t=000307;p=0
Quote:
On Wed. night, I was wathcing the newest ER show. One of the patient problems caught my attention. A hispanic woman was brought into the ER suffering from something, but the docs didn't know from what until one of the female doctors talked to the husband. According to the husband, she has been taking medication. The bottle said "once a day." In english it means take one a day. However, in spanish once means 11.
The episode was titled "Start All Over Again" and first aired in the US on 25 October 2001. Click here for an online transcript.

I found quite a number of sites that told this story as a cautionary tale. The details varied as did whether they thought the story was true or was just a useful tale to illustrate the dangers of mistranslation. The one thing that was consistent was that they were all unverifiable anecdotes as opposed to something verifiable like a news report.

I then narrowed my search to sites that listed what medications were taken. For example, from the 10 May 2004 issue of American Medical News:
Quote:
In the patient's native Spanish, "once" means 11. Thus, he believed he was properly following these instructions, which appeared on the bottles of both the diuretic and the beta-blocker prescribed for his high blood pressure. He was taking 22 pills a day.
And from the 26 March 1997 Institute for Safe Medication Practices newsletter:
Quote:
A Spanish-speaking mother applied Oxistat(r) (oxiconazole) 1% cream to her baby's inflamed rash up to eleven times each day. Is this a case of overcompliance? Not at all! The mother was simply following prescription label directions that stated half in English and half in Spanish, "Aplicarse once cada dia til rash is clear." The problem is that "once" means "eleven" in Spanish.
While these two version give the medication they both leave out when and where these incidents allegedly happened.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alarm View Post
For example, I don't believe the word "take" and "daily", as written exist in spanish, so why would one think that " take once daily" would be "Not spanish word" "spanish word" "not spanish word"?
The reader may understand "once" as eleven, but eleven what?
Exactly. That's why I find the OP unbelievable. In addition, once in English and once in Spanish have completely different pronunciations. Also, every non English speaking or limited English speaking person I have known always asks for help from an English-speaking friend or relative. My WAG is that the legend originated from the fact that once is a well-known Spanish false friend. (A French one too.)

Brian
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  #9  
Old 21 June 2014, 07:07 PM
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Icon81

In addition to other things mentioned, if you received a prescription for pills that you were supposed to take once a day, and you instead took eleven a day, you presumably should quickly notice and be concerned that your supposedly month-long prescription didn't contain enough pills to last even three days.

How many types of prescription drugs are there, anyway, for which a patient might be instructed to take eleven pills all at once?
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  #10  
Old 21 June 2014, 07:24 PM
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To me the story is entirely based on "Ha ha, dumb foreigner!" Because what kind of medicine, anywhere, would be prescribed 11 times a day? How do you divide up that dosage? If you believe that "once" means 11, then "once a day" would mean 11 a day, and unless you've never lived in any type of civilization with western medicine, you know that's a helluva lot of pills, and you should immediately question those instructions.

Not to mention that a 30-day prescription would be gone in less than 3 days because you wouldn't even have enough for three "doses".

ETA: spanked by snopes. Apparently great minds think alike.
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  #11  
Old 22 June 2014, 12:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
How many types of prescription drugs are there, anyway, for which a patient might be instructed to take eleven pills all at once?
Probably not 11, but some drugs come in widely varying individual doses. If a pharmacy is out of the higher dose, they may choose to fill it with more of the lower dose pills, assuming the effect is the same. Lipitor, which is administered as a single dose per day, can be prescribed at anywhere between 10mg and 80mg per day. It is made in varying strengths of 10, 20, 40, and 80mg pills - so if a pharmacy is out of the 80mg pills, they could, at least as a stopgap measure, provide a patient with a whole lot of 10mg pills.

This wouldn't work for time-release pills or all medications, and a pharmacy would not likely dispense in this fashion except as a temporary measure, but even that is preferable - taking 8 x 10mg pills - than taking none at all, if only the 10mg pills are available.
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  #12  
Old 23 June 2014, 12:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
In addition to other things mentioned, if you received a prescription for pills that you were supposed to take once a day, and you instead took eleven a day, you presumably should quickly notice and be concerned that your supposedly month-long prescription didn't contain enough pills to last even three days.

How many types of prescription drugs are there, anyway, for which a patient might be instructed to take eleven pills all at once?
And that says nothing about the health issues resulting from taking 11 doses of "x medicine". Imagine taking a diabetes medicine that can cause low blood sugar 11 times instead of once. Or taking a blood thickener.. or just about every medicine that isn't just plain placebo.
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  #13  
Old 01 July 2014, 05:28 PM
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I don't know if we are typical, but all our prescriptions use numbers exclusively. So, it would say something like "Take 1 pill each day". I assume this is for clarity.
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  #14  
Old 28 July 2014, 04:26 PM
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At a restaurant I tried to order something in Chinese once and accidentally ordered the death of a thousand men.
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  #15  
Old 28 July 2014, 04:34 PM
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That's 166 eggrolls!
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  #16  
Old 28 July 2014, 04:46 PM
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"I once tried to order a cheese omelet at a French restaurant and the waiter brought me a shoe with cheese on it."
-- Steve Martin
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