A Little Medicine, a Little Neeb for Qaug Dab Peg
When parents apply religious or cultural beliefs concerning spiritual healing, faith healing, or preference for prayer over traditional health care for children, concerns develop. This dilemma is unraveled in Anne Fadiman's true story, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, where the study of cross cultural medicine holds a significant value in all profession. The book chronicles the vast cultural differences between mainstream Americans and the Hmong, and how language and cultural barriers affected Lia's treatment. To understand the Lees we really need to understand the Hmong culture. Personally, as a Hmong American, I have always felt caught between two worlds trying to figure out where I stand in my own beliefs about the Hmong’s concept of illness and spiritual healing versus the well established Western medicine. As a social worker, it would be a great challenge for me to learn how to remain neutral as possible working with the Lee family and Lia’s American doctors because I have experienced the pros and cons from both systems even when I still have faith in them. I know I would be under a lot of pressure because I am a member of the Hmong community, so the Lees are expecting me to be on their side believing that the Western medicines were the cause of Lia’s illness. Although I grew up observing shamans curing the sick and the lost soul, I have never fully understood its process and its meaning, all I knew was of how sacred this belief was to the Hmong people. Fortunately, when we begin to ask ourselves questions we may begin to-uncover-the-sources-of our framing assumptions and values, (McKee, 2003) thus, I often question myself will I be culturally competent enough to work with Hmong families as a social worker? I have been told by my parents that a way to win the heart of the older Hmong generation is to be polite, humble, have manners, be respectful, trustworthy and hardworking, don’t see yourself as superior than others, and know kev cia Hmoob (teachings/lessons of Hmong traditions). In the context of working with Lia’s parents, I need to educate myself about kev cia Hmoob, along with being curious and open minded to their decision in treating their daughter. Another pressing concern I would face on a professional level working with the Lee’s is keeping Lia safe and out of Child Protective Services while dealing with hostile doctors who are commonly blind to their own biases, and the exclusivity of their beliefs is often laced with arrogance. I feel empowered when I am challenged on this issue; hoping that the immigrant community who has been discriminated against by local hospitals would come together and fight for a better health care service. Effie Bunch, a visiting public health nurse, states that although the “doctors only saw her [Lia] when she was sick and never in her [loving] home environment,” physician Neil Ernst finally removes Lia from her loving home arena, accusing the Lees of child endangerment, “a form of child abuse” (55, 79). Neil’s solution amid this economy of power and knowledge both reifies and questions his medical authority. Lia’s physicians were willing to question their own practices and those of their colleagues if it meant better medical services for their patients. However, in the end, they still believed in the concept of patient compliance. In other words, they expected the patient to accept that they knew best and that not to accept their recommendations and orders would lead perhaps to the loss of the patient’s life. They sincerely did not understand why they needed to include cultural differences into their course of treatment so as to compromise with the patient. Are we free to choose, or are we compelled to choose the way of the medical establishment? After the recent study that showed the large percentage of doctors who routinely give placebos, I wonder whether the treatment prescribed by a person's spiritual...
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