Lia Lee Hmong Child Analysis

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The tragedy that befell Lia Lee, a Hmong child, was a result of a power struggle between the Hmong and western medicine physicians, cultural impasse, and a conflict between who knows what’s best for Lia. It was too late before cultural medical reform occurred that doctors were beginning to view the person with the symptoms rather than the symptoms a person has. The Hmong were on one end of the spectrum where they believed that problems of the soul manifested themselves in the body and so spiritual healing was the best form of treatment. On the other end, the doctors believed that health problems were strictly biological and should be treated with pharmaceuticals. The distance between these two sides is what led to multiple disagreements …show more content…
It is this adherence that has kept the Hmong identity in tact when faced with strong opposition from other majority groups such as the Chinese and Americans. They believed very strongly that some people get sick because of their soul and must be treated with subsequent spiritual healing. Nao Kao is the father who prioritized his culture of treatment but was willing to compromise with doctors for whom he had a significant amount of distrust. Foua is the mother who’s love for Lia knew no bounds and this was apparent by her constant care of Lia up until Lia’s death at thirty years old. Lia’s parents were willing to compromise on treatment and stated that in order for Lia to get better it was good to do a little medicine and a little neeb. Neeb is defined by the Hmong as a ritual that a Txiv Neeb, a shaman, performs by sacrificing an animal and bartering its soul for the vagrant soul of a sick person (p.100). A Txiv Neeb is a very high stature position in the Hmong culture because they are said to be able to enter a trance state that grants them access to the spiritual world. Once there, they negotiate for the patient’s health and …show more content…
They were met with residents and doctors that labeled them as noncompliant, stubborn, and disobedient with a majority of the medical staff failing to take interest in Hmong culture and values. If the medical staff took steps towards conjoined treatment, it would have promoted trust on both sides. Reassuring the Lees that the medication was not meant to cause harm and to ask their assistance in spiritual healing would have gone a long way in establishing what could have been an effective treatment plan for Lia. Dr. Neil Ernst was a pediatrician that worked extensively on Lia’s case. Although he was able to question his practice, he ultimately thought the Lees should follow his recommendation because he had the training and knew what was best. He placed Lia is foster care after he perceived the Lees refusal of medications as an act of negligence and child endangerment. He was doing what he thought was the right thing to do despite his actions going against the grain of Foua and Nao Kao. Lia’s tragedy is an example of a culture clash between the Hmong culture and western medicine. A question of what is worth more, the life or the soul, is at the heart of this. Doctors believe they must do everything to keep an individual alive, whereas religious families, such as the Hmong, believe eternal damnation is not worth life on earth. It is not

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