Today, it’s hard enough for doctors and patients to communicate effectively, even if they share the same primary language. But layer on not only language differences, but also a yawning cultural chasm, and a visit to western medicine might lead to a child being removed from the care of her parents.
That was the case for Lia Lee, a young Hmong refugee in Merced who suffered from epilepsy. As Anne Fadiman profiled in her riveting book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Lia’s doctors grew frustrated by her parents’ unwillingness to follow their prescriptions for treatment, and the doctors ultimately had Lia legally removed from her parents’ care.
As the New York Times reports:
In traditional Hmong belief, qaug dab peg, [Hmong for epilepsy] like many illnesses, is spiritual in origin, caused when the soul becomes separated from the body. A traditional cure might entail visits from a shaman, who would attempt to reunite body and soul. Continue reading