According to the text, Lipkin believes it is usually impossible to tell patients the whole truth because “patients rarely know how the body functions in health and disease, but instead have inaccurate ideas of what is going on; this hampers the attempts to “tell the truth.” (160).
It is a story about a family who shows so much loyalty to their traditions and cultures, but it clashes with the strict American “norm” and creates conflict for their most prized possession, their daughter. Young Lia’s health is at risk when the doctors are trying to treat her epilepsy, but the culture barrier between them and her parents put her at risk. Lia’s parents, Nao Kao and Foua Lee believe that their ancient traditions and healing is what Lia needs in order to get better, but Lia’s doctors prescribe her with many prescriptions to help with the seizures and her parent’s inability to read or speak English to communicate
In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman introduces the reader to the Hmong culture and to the Lee’s family experience with western medicine. Throughout the book it talks of the past interactions of the Hmong and Americans, showing reasoning why the Hmong already mistrust Americans and western medicine.
“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anna Fadiman tells the story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child with epilepsy, whose life could have been different if only her family was caught up in western medicine. This book reveals the tragic struggles between a doctor and patient because of lack of communication.
The author was trying to show how the difference between two cultures can influence in health care. The author showed how the difference between illness and disease also affects the forms of treatment. It is important to recognize the patient’s cultural beliefs because this may help us to recognize how effective the given treatment can be and in what ways we can enhance the treatment without sacrificing the patient’s cultural beliefs. The author also showed how both the parents and the doctors care about Lia but what they thought was best for Lia varied. The doctors thought that the parents were harming the treatment by not being compliant and the parents thought that the doctors were hurting Lia by giving her so much medicine.
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
In the book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman explores the cultural collision between the Hmong Lee family and their American doctors. Along with the culture clash, the social stigma against the Hmong family brings to light a lot of the systematic, moral, and ethical issues that can arise in our healthcare. Ultimately, the combination of the cultural clash in medical perspectives, the underlying social stigma, the inadequate treatment, and the miscommunication hindered the proper diagnosis and recovery of led to the demise of the Hmong child. However, many of the problems could have been easily avoided or resolved with more patience, objectivity, and most importantly, cultural competence. Cross-cultural methods and approaches should be taken to accommodate for the diverse patient population in our communities.
In most of the novel, Fadiman alternates between the specific story of Lia and her family and the general history of the Hmong. She begins at the very beginning of Lia’s story and she tries her best to date the Hmong as far back in history as possible. In comparison, both elements of the story have three main elements: suffering, struggle, and survival. In particular, intense moments of both mental and physical suffering are observed in these parallel stories. Lia clearly endures physical suffering from her violent seizures and the Hmong who had to flee their home country had to walk for miles at a time in large packs. Lia’s parents endured great mental suffering from taking care of Lia 24/7 and the Hmong had to witness their own men being taken away to fight in war, never to return. Continuing with comparison, the plight of the American doctors is as difficult as the Hmong at points. Some of the doctors did have their varying opinions, but most really just wanted to feel that they did their job to the fullest extent. Many hours and thousands of dollars were spent on Lia and her condition. One could say that Fadiman does have bias towards the Hmong, but if she had chosen to completely side with them, she wouldn’t have mentioned the third element of suffering: the doctors who wanted to better a
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman is an analysis of Western medicine and traditional Hmong medicine in the treatment of a young child with severe epilepsy in Merced, California. The book also details Hmong culture, history, and their life as refugees in the United States. The majority of the Hmong populations, especially in central California where the book takes place, rely on welfare and this creates tensions with the other populations in the area. Her book is an eye opening introduction into the Hmong culture, the clash of traditional and western medicine, the discrimination of refugees, and the importance of cultural inclusivity.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a biographical work on a Hmong family living in California during the early 80’s. While the book is a true accounting of the Lee’s family attempt to secure quality healthcare for their epileptic daughter while traversing the American medical system and the Department of Children Services. The author, Anne Fadiman, takes the reader on a painstaking but necessary journey of Hmong history and culture and how they came to reside in Merced, California.
How did you notice culture impacting the health and illness course of Lia Lee and her family in these beginning chapters?
‘The spirit catches you and you fall down’ was published in 2012 by essayist and reporter Anne Fadiman. This introductory book review analyzes the way in which different cultures perceive illnesses and diseases. It focuses on the story of the Lees a Hmong family, who moved to the United States and experiences difficulties with language, culture and biomedicine method of healing, which contradict to Hmong’s way of healing. The chapters describe the differences between the ways childbirth is conducted in Hmong society compared to the western society. As well as the struggle the Lees family has with the cultural differences in diagnoses and treatment of their ill daughter. This methodology used in Anne Fadiman book involves real life events being
Over the past four months, this course has been one of the most eye-opening experiences I have had during my first year of college. Although I have always realized the importance of being culturally competent in daily life, specifically healthcare, I was unaware of the many ways that cultural competence can be obtained. This class gave me the opportunity to view situations from a different perspective, especially through the weekly discussion boards and peer responses. Learning from classmate can teach more valuable lessons than listening to boring lectures or reading hundreds of pages in a textbook because it is easier to relate to experience rather than hypothetical situations. For example, one of the discussion boards asked us to detail