Shaman in California

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.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anthony Jurayj says:

    I really liked the points you make in your assessment. I watched the documentary, “The Horse Boy” and found it very enlightening. I feel as though a big part of medicine is not only trust in your healthcare, but also faith. It’s as if people can will themselves to be cured or let themselves remain ill because they don’t believe the medicine will serve its purpose. It’s the performing physician’s job to ensure that patients want to be helped, and make them believe that they can do it. An important note you also talked about was that it’s a combination of this belief and the technology/ science itself. I believe that these treatments, although can be alternative, are mainly supplementary/complimentary to the initial treatment.

    In the end, I feel as though no matter how unorthodox the treatment may seem, as long as there isn’t any risk, why not let the shamans do their rituals or clowns play their pranks to just see what happens. If traditional treatments seem to have no effect, and there is even the slightest chance that unconventional methods may do the job, I don’t see why people shouldn’t have a go. All in all, some things are very unpredictable in medicine, and your only option for an unpredictable treatment is a abnormal treatment.

  2. Josh Hartwig says:

    The Shaman’s role in this article is to work alongside the doctors, as stated in the article they believe “the doctors are good at disease where the Shamans take care of the soul”. This seems to benefit both patient and the biomedical doctors because they can still have the patient admitted while certain “approved” rituals are performed at the hospital. Although the rituals have no basis in biomedical medicine it seems to help the individuals that practice that religion. There is an emotional and psychological aspect of this type of interaction, even if there is no physical change. Even though these rituals are a new occurrence inside of hospitals working in harmony with biomedicine, there is some precedence for religion in hospitals. I do believe the Shaman’s are a legitimate benefit to the patients. Every hospital I have ever been in has a chapel in it, also depending on the religion like Islam or Judaism it prevents hospitals from performing autopsies which they respect. But even though these rituals have no benefit from a biomedical standpoint the mental aspect cannot be ignored, as proof look at the placebo effect. Just the thought of getting something to cure a person whether it is a drug or a magical ritual the power of suggestion is not fully understood but is tangible.

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