Is it necessary to be medically qualified to be a good medical translator?
A medical training followed by several years of clinical and laboratory experience, preferably including medical authorship, is a huge asset for a medical translator, in terms of both confidence and range.
No, provided the translator is aware of his/her limitations.
A substantial proportion of medical translation deals with basic research, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, laboratory devices, i.e. areas for which a medical training provides no specific preparation and in which MDs in turn need to be aware of their limitations unless they happen to have acquired the relevant experience. Otherwise such fields are best tackled by bioscientists or pharmacists.
However, there is no doubt that a medical training followed by several years of clinical and laboratory experience, preferably including medical authorship, is a huge asset for a medical translator, in terms of both confidence and range.
It is indispensable for highly clinical texts, e.g. discharge summaries and adverse event reports, often dictated by exhausted junior hospital doctors and typed by inadequately trained temps, which can be a minefield for anyone without the relevant clinical and linguistic background. It is, or at least should be, unethical for a pharmaceutical company to entrust such material to translators lacking demonstrable clinical knowledge and experience.
Operative surgery is another field in which clarity, accuracy and authority are virtually impossible to achieve without an MD background allied to experience in the specialty concerned or, failing that, without close cooperation between a medically qualified translator and an operative specialist.