Condición muy delicada (El Salvador)

leo1903

Senior Member
English (U.S.A.)
Hello everyone!

For country/regional context, this is in El Salvador.

I'm translating a short news article, and a person was injured in a shooting. The article says that the person was taken to the hospital "en condición muy delicada." I found the list of conditions that hospital spokespeople use when speaking to the press in the United States:
  • Good - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
  • Fair - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
  • Serious - Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is seriously ill. Indicators are questionable.
  • Critical - Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
  • Dead - Vital signs have ceased. Patient has died.
Is there a similar list of conditions that hospitals in El Salvador or other Spanish-speaking countries use when speaking to the press about a patient?

"Very delicate" doesn't seem like the best possible translation to me, but I'll use it if necessary. Are there any better options? Would "en condición muy delicada" translate well to any of the above conditions used in the US? The article gives no other details about the person's condition, so, in this case, it may be best to stick as close to the original as possible, but I'm also interested in other options for future translations and informational resources.

Thank you very much for your help and expertise!
 
  • AbogadoPeter

    Senior Member
    English - USA (medical & legal)
    There are similar terms in Mexico. I would add to the US list "extremely critical," but that doesn't apply here.

    I would interpret "muy delicada" as the equivalent of "serious."
     

    ChemaSaltasebes

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    I agree with Peter that the original does tend to convey the idea of a serious/critical condition. And yet, it does not say so.

    "En condición muy delicada" here is both euphemistic and ambiguous. It could be applied to either a critical (life-threatening) clinical condition as well as to an "embarrasing" state (i.e. "fully drunk"). As such, and even though the natural reading might be that of a serious (medical) condition in the given context, I would invite natives to think of a more euphemistic alternative rather than to a clinically-acceptable term such as serious/critical (which by the way the original is not; we do not say -in a clinical context- that a patient is in a "situación delicada" except as a way to explain to the family the uncertainty of a patient's outcome).

    Maybe then something along the line of "delicate clinical situation" (?). Definitely not "(very) delicate condition", as this is a common reference to pregnancy...
     
    Last edited:

    AbogadoPeter

    Senior Member
    English - USA (medical & legal)
    I would invite natives to think of a more euphemistic alternative rather than to a clinically-acceptable term such as serious/critical (which by the way the original is not; we do not say -in a clinical context- that a patient is in a "situación delicada" except as a way to explain to the family the uncertainty of a patient's outcome).
    Here in Mexico I have seen/heard "está delicado" referred to explicitly by attending physicians (speaking to families) to convey that the patient's condition is (at least) unstable. The last time referred to a patient whose lab values and vital signs were generally stable and normal or close to normal, but whose condition was nonetheless perilous... and who, indeed, died that night.

    The original comes from a newspaper report, so I would expect it to use lay/popular jargon for medical conditions, which I find to be consistent with the usages that I've heard here.

    Finally, I would not expect to read or hear "delicate" used when referring to someone's acute medical condition, at least in the U.S., although it might appear in other contexts (her health is [generally] delicate). Finally, at least in North America, "condición crítica" is a phrase that is heard or read in pieces by news outlets, although I don't know if it is used farther south.

    So, I don't know about El Salvador, nor Spain, but if I heard that phrase in Mexico in that specific context I would think of serious, or possibly critical, condition. I would not think of any phrase involving the word "delicate."
     

    ChemaSaltasebes

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    I would not think of any phrase involving the word "delicate."
    Thanks for clearing that out, Peter.
    As for the general meaning of "condición delicada" you got it right also, as a reference to a perilous, uncertain short term prognosis. The nuance I miss in the English version so far is that of frailty (a frail condition?) that "delicada" conveys in the given context; the short term prognosis is uncertain as the condition of the patient is [frail? ("delicate")].
     

    AbogadoPeter

    Senior Member
    English - USA (medical & legal)
    he nuance I miss in the English version so far is that of frailty
    Yes, but "frail" is also used in chronic, rather than acute, references.

    Unfortunately, "unstable" is most commonly used, and (in my opinion) misused. Back in the 70s and 80s we were taught that "stable" or "unstable" were terms that required a series of measurements to define. A patient whose vital signs (or lab values, or other indicators) were going down, or fluctuating significantly was "unstable," so you had to have AT LEAST two measurements, if not more, in order to say that she or he was unstable.

    In contrast, a patient might be hypotensive or anemic but unchanged, and be compensating for those abnormalities, and would be considered "stable."

    Now someone with abnormal vital signs is considered unstable, even if they're doing fine and compensating adequately.

    We will also hear a hospital announce someone's condition as "critical but stable," which sounds like a contradiction but may be more consistent with the original definitions, i.e. bodily functions are likely being supported but there is no negative trend.
     

    ChemaSaltasebes

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    Fortunately, in Spain at least "inestable" is still "unstable" -as by your standards. From what you say though unstable might be understood by newspaper readers as something rather close (even more so than "critical but stable") to our "delicado".

    Anyhow, sorry for this long trip; after all, "serious" (Peter #2) sounds as close as one can get to "muy delicada" in this context.
     
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