Ethnomedicine In Hmong Culture

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Ethnomedicine has been historically defined as any healthcare system not present in the West; now, ethnomedicine is defined as the any cultural beliefs which surround healing in a community. The Hmong—an ethnic group located within present day Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand—have a particular system of ethnomedicine which is described as personalistic. Within a personalistic system, an active agent is the underlying cause of a disease—or etiology. Humans can be the cause of the disease as well as a number of non-human and supernatural agents. When Lia Lee began seizing at three months of age, her parents understood that the active agent which caused her epilepsy was a door slamming which caused her soul to fly from her body, an illness called quag…show more content…
The MCMC—the hospital where Lia was—agreed to discharge her and allow Lia to return home. Before they were allowed to leave, however, a nurse asked Nao Faso to sign a document which he believed said that Lia would die within two hours’ time—within Hmong culture, “foretelling death is strongly taboo” (Fadiman 1997, 177). They believe that proclamations of death will only bring death closer, so this paper was seen as a threat to the life of Lia. In what Fadiman sees as true Hmong fashion, Nao Kao grabbed Lia and attempted to flee the hospital (1997, 178). This, of course, only delayed Lia’s discharge from hospital; a point which Lia’s second doctor, Neil Ernst, would consistently fling towards Nao Kao after the attempted…show more content…
The case of Lia Lee can be used holistically to showcase the negative effects which a culture and language barrier can produce between doctor and patient. It can reveal how communication and cultural sensitivity can aid in medical practice. Nevertheless, Lia’s case also shows the need for doctors and healthcare practitioners to learn more of about a culture so that treatment may be administered smoothly and without complete comprehension of the patient and their
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