W3 Reflection: A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul

The article “A Doctor for Disease, a Shaman for the Soul” discusses how a hospital in California has permitted Shamans to come in as per request of the patients since 2009.  As Mr. Lee says, a Hmong Shaman says, “Doctors are good at disease, the soul is the Shaman’s responsibility.”  This is done so that a spiritual bridge may be gapped between the Mercy Medical Center and the Hmong patients who reside in it.  There are normally four Hmong patients each day in the hospital, and staff want to make them as comfortable as they can be as the Hmong people rely on their spiritual beliefs to help heal them when they are ill, as they believe that a person falls ill when their soul wanders off.  Allowing Shamans to help guide the souls back to their Hmong owners is the first step towards integrating a national program in which a patient’s holistic beliefs are tied into their in-hospital medical treatments.  Just as clergy members have unrestricted access to patients, so do the Hmong Shamans.  Just like clergy men have their clerical clothing, certifies shamans have “embroidered jackets and official badges.”  Many Hmong people were wary of Westerns after the Vietnam War, as it affected their life in Laos.  The Hmong culture has elaborate rituals that “are tame versions of elaborate rituals that abound in Merced, especially on weekends, when suburban living rooms and garages are transformed into sacred spaces and crowded by over a hundred friends and family members.”  By incorporating Shamans into medical treatment, Mercy Medical Center is trying to close the rift that was formed between the US and the Hmong.  By incorporating both spiritual healers as well as medical doctors into the treatment of a patient, I believe that they are creating an environment that will allow the patient to heal both quickly as both their medical and spiritual needs are taken care of.  Since this article was written seven years ago, I hope that more hospitals have taken strides to incorporate programs like the one at Mercy Medical Center.  (I would just like to add that I find it amazing and sort of hilarious that the Shamans do not require payment for their services, and often just accept a live chicken if the patient insists.)

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