My mom was in pain for a month until she went to the ER Friday night. They found out that she had a cyst in her fallopian tube. She went into surgery Saturday. She came home last night.
My grams was upset that my mom didn’t inform her about her health condition or that she was getting surgery. And then to make matters worse, my grams wanted one of us to stay with my mom overnight. “You don’t know what doctors and nurses will do to your mom once everyone goes home,” Grams said. The nurse was kind and she explained to us that we’re not allowed to stay overnight because my mom shared a room.
What happened got me thinking. The Hmong (traditional, ignorant, and uneducated) have this distrust in hospitals, medical procedures, doctors, and nurses. They don’t know that even though it could happen, there are laws against using a human being as a test subject without their consent. And even if doctors have the patient’s consent, there are ethical guidelines to abide by.
My aunt is on dialysis for kidney failure. When her doctor first suggested my aunt be put on dialysis immediately three years ago, my grams refused. She said that dialysis will kill my aunt because it has “killed” other Hmong people. So, my grams took my aunt from the hospital and had a shaman perform a religious ceremony (ua neeb and hu plig) on my aunt to call back her spirit. My aunt ended up at the hospital a month later and that was when we finally persuaded my grams to allow the doctor to put my aunt on dialysis.
My grams (and I’m sure many others) believe doctors test on humans, like scenes from horror movies where psychotic surgeons prey on weak patients and use them for horrible medical procedures. This is derived from not understanding that there are risks involved in healthcare.
Many ignorant and uneducated Hmong folks believe that doctors should never make mistakes and medical procedures should not carry any risks. And it is because of this belief that when the medication or the medical procedure goes wrong, then they automatically think the doctor had ill motives.
A patient who had knee surgery doesn’t recover well and ends up not being able to walk for the rest of her life. People like my grams will automatically assume that it was the doctor who did it on purpose to “test” on that patient. A patient dies during heart surgery. People like my grams will automatically assume that the heart surgeon killed the patient on purpose.
It is because of this attitude towards the healthcare professionals that makes it hard for younger Hmong generations, like myself, to talk to the elders about health risks involved in getting treatment. And it is even harder when a family member needs medical treatment or surgery.
The Hmong culture values family collectivism. Every major decision is made as a family. So, if a family member needs to get treatment, and the elders refuse to allow that because of their distrust in doctors, then there really is nothing much you can do.
In my position, I can disregard what my elders say and sign the papers myself and get treatment. But, what about children? What about those who don’t speak English or are not educated (like my aunt)? They are left with someone else making the decision for them, someone whose beliefs cloud their judgments.