Legalese in medical translation: a problem paragraph solved

As medical translators, we often have to dabble in non-medical fields such as statistics, insurance and law. Clinical trial documentation has its fair share of standard legal sections, and one particular paragraph has been causing me quite a headache recently. It often appears in validations, substantial modifications and authorisations issued by the AEMPS (Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices) so it’s likely you’ve come across it, too.

Contra esta Resolución, que pone fin a la vía administrativa, puede interponerse potestativamente Recurso de Reposición ante el/la Director/a de la Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios en el plazo de un mes, conforme a lo dispuesto en los artículos 123 y 124 de la Ley 39/2015, de 1 de octubre, del Procedimiento Administrativo Común de las Administraciones Públicas, o interponerse Recurso Contencioso-Administrativo ante el Juzgado Central de lo Contencioso-Administrativo de Madrid, en el plazo de dos meses a contar desde el día siguiente a la recepción de la presente notificación, conforme a lo dispuesto en la Ley Reguladora de la Jurisdicción Contencioso-Administrativa de 13 de julio de 1998, y sin perjuicio de cualquier otro recurso que pudiera interponerse.

I’ve been translating this paragraph for years, so it’s tucked away in my translation memory. The law itself was updated a couple of years ago, but the rest of the paragraph didn’t change.

Recently, a client asked me to improve my translation, so I edited it to make it clearer. I wasn’t confident with the changes, however, and decided to ask an experienced legal translator, Rebecca Jowers, for her feedback on the paragraph. She kindly supplied her own rendering, emphasising that there is no single, correct translation, but many possibilities, all of which could be valid. Her comments (in the footnotes below) were particularly useful.

Here is Rebecca’s translation:

Contra esta Resolución, que pone fin a la vía administrativa, puede interponerse potestativamente Recurso de Reposición ante el/la Director/a de la Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios en el plazo de un mes, conforme a lo dispuesto en los artículos 123 y 124 de la Ley 39/2015, de 1 de octubre, del Procedimiento Administrativo Común de las Administraciones Públicas, o interponerse Recurso Contencioso-Administrativo ante el Juzgado Central de lo Contencioso-Administrativo de Madrid, en el plazo de dos meses a contar desde el día siguiente a la recepción de la presente notificación, conforme a lo dispuesto en la Ley Reguladora de la Jurisdicción Contencioso-Administrativa de 13 de julio de 1998, y sin perjuicio de cualquier otro recurso que pudiera interponerse. This decision[1] exhausts all available administrative remedies,[2] although pursuant to Articles 123 and 124 of Law 39/2015 of 1 October on Common Administrative Procedure[3] for Governmental Agencies, an optional appeal for reconsideration[4] of the decision may be filed within one month with the Director of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices; or an appeal[5] may be filed at the Central Administrative Court of Madrid within two months after the day this notice is received, as provided in the Administrative Courts Procedure Act of 13 July 1998, the above being without prejudice to any other appeals that may be brought.
[1] Initial capitals shouldn’t be used in English or Spanish. See what Fundeu.es has to say about resolución.
[2] Both poner fin a la vía administrativa and agotar la vía administrativa can be translated as “exhaust all available administrative remedies”. Read more about exhaustion of remedies in The Free Dictionary.
[3] As always, when translating the title of laws you have to decide between a fairly literal translation and a translation that perhaps conveys the meaning in a more natural-sounding way. In this case, the idea that must come across is that it is not a law of judicial procedure.
[4] There is no “official” translation for recurso de reposición, since nothing similar exists in common law jurisdictions. “Reconsideration appeal,” “motion/application for reconsideration/review”, etc. are all valid.
[5] Some translators believe that the contencioso in recurso contencioso-administrativo has to be translated literally, but this term merely indicates that the appeal is to an administrative court (juzgado contencioso-administrativo), distinguishing it from a recurso admininistrativo, which is a (non-judicial) appeal to the administrative authorities. All appeals filed in administrative courts are by definition “administrative appeals”.

Now you know how to tackle this complex paragraph, you may be wondering what my original translation looked like. Here it is:

An optional Appeal for Reversal may be filed within one month, before the Director of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices, against this Resolution, which brings an end to the administrative process, as provided for in Article 123 and 124 of Law 39/2015 of 1 October on the Common Administrative Procedure of the Public Administrations, or an Administrative Dispute Appeal may be filed before the Central Administrative Dispute Court of Madrid within two months from the day after receiving this notification, as provided for in the Law Regulating Administrative Dispute Jurisdiction of 13 July 1998, without prejudice to any other appeal that may be brought.

I agree with my client that there was room for improvement. I wasn’t aware of the intricacies of the term contencioso, and my translation of recurso de reposición (I used “appeal for reversal”) wasn’t up to scratch. However, my client’s suggestion, “replenishment resource” indicated that she wasn’t an English legal expert either.

In these cases, it’s best to consult a colleague who has more experience. Rebecca Jowers has worked as an in-house legal translator in a law firm and teaches legal English at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid. She recently published Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés (Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015).

Many thanks to Rebecca for helping me translate this complex paragraph and for allowing me to share her legal expertise in this blog post.

This entry was posted in Medical, Regulatory, Spanish-English translation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Legalese in medical translation: a problem paragraph solved

  1. Excellent post Emma, and of course the opposite holds true. Legal translation is never ‘just’ legal translation.

  2. sierramar says:

    Thank you again, Emma, for your post. I always enjoy them: they are pertinent, informative and I always learn from them :-).

  3. There’s nothing like asking an expert colleague. I joined the ITI LIFT network a few years ago for this very issue (i.e. legal language in medical texts), and people there have been extremely generous and helpful.

    Rebecca’s translations of “recurso de reposición” and “recurso contencioso-administrativo” look great. I don’t translate from Spanish, but the same concepts exist in French law, so I’ll make a note of them – thanks!

  4. Pingback: (ES) (EN) – Legalese in medical translation: a problem paragraph solved | Emma Goldsmith – 📚 Glossarissimo!

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