I’ve decided to summarize the New York Times article, “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul.” I feel this article is highly depictive of the current relation between modern medicine and religious healing. We live in an era dominated by advances in science that have accomplished unimaginable feats including sending a rover to Mars and cloning animals. For most of us living in developed countries it seems plausible, almost a given, that science is the answer for all medical problems. In some ways that does seem to be the case. The marriage of science and technology with health care has culminated in finding treatments or cures for countless diseases including diabetes and some cancers. However, the Times article illustrates that not all people, and not all illnesses, are cured by faith in science. Sometimes people believe they are healed by faith in a divine being or though religious practices. According to Va Meng Lee, a Shaman from California, “Doctors are good at disease.” Mr. Lee acknowledges the benefits of modern medicine but is adamant that his religious practices and faith are responsible for protecting a person’s soul. This protected soul allows people to heal completely and shields them from the harms of evil spirits.
The article explains how hospitals in California and other parts of the country are altering their stance on the combination of modern medicine and religion in hospital settings. In fact, recent surveys have shown that hospitals throughout the US are embracing religious and cultural beliefs like they have never done before. Shaman programs are being developed that introduce Shaman to western medical practices in an effort to promote understanding in both groups. Furthermore, Shaman are allowed to perform certain rituals in patient’s rooms in hospitals, so long as the ritual is permitted by the hospital staff and any roommates of the patient. In these rituals Shaman are the healers and they are granted the same unrestricted access to patients are members of the clergy. Their healing techniques include tracing invisible protective shields, spiritual chants (also called Soul Calling) and some animal rituals that may or may not involve sacrifice, however, these rituals take place in the patient’s home as they’re not allowed in the hospital.
Health professionals like Dr. Flores of Los Angeles are hoping that the combination of modern medicine and cultural/religious practices fuels a push towards comprehensive healthcare and disease prevention.