I found myself with mixed feelings after reading Chapter 5 and 6. The two chapters focused on the Lees and their trouble with Lia’s medication. There are several instances in these two chapters where this an idea that Hmongs willfully misunderstood the instructions given to them by doctors and that they have a lack of respect for their caretakers. I was especially troubled with Dr. Neil’s perception of Nao Kao as being “deliberately deceitful” and Dr. Peggy’s perception of Foua as “either very stupid or a loonybird” (Fadiman 47). I am concerned that there must be many other cases where doctors feel this way about immigrant patients due to the language and culture barrier. In cases like these, other doctors might give up trying to help immigrant patients and this probably does occur since it is clear there is a connection between poor health status and perception as a non white immigrant. There are moments where even I as a reader was distraught by the choices the Lees made in regard to Lia.
Having non white immigrant parents in some ways made me feel guilty for my frustration with the Lees. That might seem like a weird emotion but I found myself thinking that I had to support the Hmong’s choices because I have immigrant parents. It is important to take a step back and recognize the health of people of color is already a complicated subject even before adding immigrant/refugee status. Ultimately there is no perfect solution, especially when dealing with self administered medication but many improvements can be made. Hospitals can be allocated more resources for people who would not regularly have access to good health care. There could be cultural competency seminars for those in the medical field. Many times issues are not just due to language barriers but disconnects between culture (Fadmina 69). There is no perfect solution but changing the system is incredibly important since it is not set up to help nonwhite patients. There should also be an element of choice. Roger Fifes, a doctor at MCMC did not force his Hmong patients to follow American medical practices and his reason was “It’s their body” (Fadiman 77). That really put my mixed feelings about the administration of medication into perspective. Whether I find something frustrating or not, ultimately it is not my choice or any doctor’s choice to decide medical procedures or medication for a patient. Changing the healthcare system so that less privileged people can have choices is the first step. It is not about indoctrinating them with Western culture.