Role of Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding in Ruining Lia's Life

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Role of Cross-cultural Misunderstanding in Ruining Lia’s Life

Lia is born of a loving Hmong family, and just three months into her life, begins to reveal epileptic symptoms. According to the Hmong community, the condition is curable, and the presence of spirits in such a patient’s soul is considered a blessing. However, American doctors in a community medical center fail to understand and appreciate Lia’s parents’ approach to the child’s disease, and are only interested in saving this child’s life. As the conflict develops, it becomes apparent that the child will not be healed; but this is not without the doctors realizing the importance of compromise. In this book, Anne Fadiman claims, “I have come to believe that her [Lia’s] life was ruined not by septic shock or noncompliant parents but by cross-cultural misunderstanding” (Fadiman 262). Before making this claim, Fadiman had come to fully understand the Hmong culture. This statement was thus an affirmation that her parents’ primitive treatment to epilepsy was not to blame for Lia’s devastation, but the cross-cultural misunderstanding that surrounded her life. Based on the evidence provided by Fadiman and supported by the views of critics, this essay aims to reaffirm that cross-cultural misunderstanding was to blame for Lia’s ruined life.

The Hmong culture was partly to blame for the problematic treatment of Lia. Shamans, the community’s doctors, needed time in their patients’ homes, where they diagnosed and treated based on the patients’ symptoms. If a patient died, human error in his/her treatment was not a possibility, and instead – they considered disease to be fulfillment of the wishes of the spirits. The method used by modern doctors at the Merced Community Medical Center, including taking of blood samples and stripping a patient of her clothes, was therefore considered immoral (Twiss 167). As such, the Hmong community, including Lia’s parents, was unwilling to coordinate with the modern doctors...
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