Spirit Helping Re-Imagining Fadiman's the Spirit Catches Case Study

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Spirit Helping

Re-Imagining Fadiman's the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: Better Alternatives in Cultural Competency

In her book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman recounts the tale of the Lee family, Hmong immigrants from Laos now residing in Merced, California, and their daughter Lia's diagnosis and medical battle with epilepsy. The book's focus, however, is on the battle that occurs between the principles of Western medicine and the Western doctors encountered by the Lees and the Hmong cultural beliefs and practices still strongly adhered to by the family. Both of these contribute to the diminished care of Lia from both cultural perspectives, and Fadiman does an excellent job of fairly rendering the shortcomings of care and the misunderstandings that occurred on both sides of the struggle to save a little girl's life and ensure her well-being (Fadiman 1998).

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Conflict arises both due to misunderstandings and mistrusts that exist for both parties in regards to the other. The Lees interpret much of the doctors' orders for Lia's care as advice that can be taken or disregarded at will, while the doctors tend to see the Lees' refusal to give the prescribed medicines as stemming alternately from ignorance or arrogance, rather than the considered cultural perspective from which such decisions were actually being made (Fadiman 1995). The Lees' failure to provide the proper medicine leads to Lia's removal to a foster home for six months, and her ultimate vegetative state is blamed on the same lack of Western care or, according to the Lees' perspective on the prevention of the proper spiritual healing methods by the Western doctors and legal system (Fadiman 1998).

Case Study on Spirit Helping Re-Imagining Fadiman's the Spirit Catches Assignment

All parties concerned could have done a much better job of providing Lia with the care she needed and ensuring that all of the other parties, each of whom can be seen as fully and legitimately caring for Lia and having her best interests at heart, would feel more respected. As Fadiman makes quite explicit in her examination of the Hmong culture at large as well as in her specific description and discussion of the Lee family and their attitudes, being given orders and listening to other opinions was not a strong suit of Nao Kao Lee or Foua Yang Lee; both of Lia's parents could and should have made themselves receptive to other possibilities, and -- especially at the earlier stages of her illness -- tried to develop a better understanding of the explanations and advice they received.

At the same time, the onus is largely on the doctors for bridging the cultural gap and developing an understanding of the Lees' perspective during the course of Lia's treatment, as it is part of effective medical practice… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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