Chapter 5 & 6

The Hmong immigrants were to be screened for perfect health, but they often were not. The doctors at MCMC should have expected a language and cultural barrier when new excited residents purposely took shifts at the hospital, but they did not. The Hmong were expected to follow directions given by a stranger (even if he/she had a medical degree) without questions, but they did not.

These two chapters highlighted the knowledge gap between the two groups of people trying to co-exist. Doctors were frustrated with the Hmong refusing to adhere to medical procedures while the Hmong were frustrated that they were not heard, that they were always cut into without apparent reason. In Lia Lee’s situation, her constant risk of brain injury required the modern medicine that the hospital wanted and tried their best to give, but the urgency was hard to get across to parents, who without an interpreter, were often kept out of the loop.

I am not surprised at either scenario. Coming from a collectivist society, I do consider the hospitals and medical practices in the US to be more of trial and error, where all possible tests are run first and you see the doctor last. However, being from a collectivist society, I have also witnessed the need for self diagnosis based on home remedies. I do not think the latter is always wrong and I do not think it comes from a lack of reverence for the doctor as the book suggested. I think it is from the idea that a doctor sees you like a set of symptoms instead of a suffering person who needs that mental appeasement as well. So a family member’s suggestion is considered more personable, able to give you solace.

How the Lees acted should not be too foreign. I do not think it is rare for even the most literate person to overdose on Tylenol hoping to cure a fever faster. The Lees could not comprehend the directions, and all they knew were that their 3 year old daughter, afflicted with a venerable disease by Hmong standard, was being pumped with a cocktail of medication that seemed to be making her act strange. Calling back to anti-vaccine campaigns, you can hear Trump’s claims that the doctors are poking young children for no apparent reason. In both cases, the real issue is how much the public (and the Hmong) know and understand how and why medical procedures are done. For the Hmong, who have been exposed to very little beyond their own culture, this would have been particularly important. While I do not think the doctors refused to acknowledge this, it seemed like continuously dismissing a case prematurely for “language barrier” should have triggered a faster, better response.

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One thought on “Chapter 5 & 6

  1. I like how you played devils advocate for both sides. Each side was in the wrong and each side was wronged. I think when reading scenarios like these, we tend to take a side and believe that one person is wrong but I appreciate you bringing both perspectives into the discussion!

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