Culture and Medicine
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Since the beginning of time, human beings have held culture and belief systems that explain issues in their lives according to Gordon (2006). Some of the issues include the essence of life, existence of a supreme being, origin of disease and so on. In the documentary ‘Hold your breath’ by Dr. Monsen, an Afghan migrant named Mohammed Kochi is faced with a dilemma of whether to trust the doctors for his cancer treatment or Allah whom he believes that he is the answer to his disease. In this study, we are going to focus on ways in which cultural systems affect the issue of treatment, the issues surrounding cultural diversity and the social effect of combining medicine and culture.
This documentary is based on a story of a person with a deep sense of religious background and cultural system. The main character, Kochi is an immigrant from the Arab world and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he is seen to have gone from predicament to another notably seeking asylum in the foreign country. With no English language familiarity the aspect of communication posses a great challenge to him and he relies on the family for translation.
The biggest challenge comes about when he is diagnosed with cancer. This situation makes him to be in a big dilemma of how it originated and how he was to deal with that situation. It goes without saying that he thought the disease was a role of the Supreme Being and his will is the suffers from the same. Furthermore the medical explanation is complicated more with the factor he is not conversant with the medical language and English. However, with the family members acting as the interpreter the magnitude of the disease’s effect is compromised on the patient as he shuns chemotherapy and embarks on a pilgrimage as shown by Grainger- Monsen (2005).
So how does culture belief patter affect medical treatment? We are going to see that it affects in three general ways namely hindering of communication and explanation of the disease’s origin, the treatments and management as well as the social settings surrounding the patients and their relationships.
Communication is the first step in diagnosing any ailment or disease that a doctor is presented. This is compromised in the beginning when the patient, Kochi, uses the family members who have a denial-oriented mindset about diseases and their origin. The truth of the matter is that the patient is suffering from cancer but the family is likely to have misinformed him about the extent of the damage that the disease is likely to cause. This is portrayed with the reaction of the patient who instead of taking the news seriously and respond immediately decides to seek divine intervention and makes way to Hajj.
This portrays the explanation that cultural and religious doctrines teach on the origin and explanations of diseases and ailments. According to the study by Gordon et.al, different religions, race and even physical settings are likely to explain the reasons why diseases come about using different approaches. Religion for instance Islam and Hinduism tend to believe that the reason why disease and ailments come about is by the victim having committed a crime against God or the family tree is condemned and the disease is to be solved by prayer. Although not all of the people of the faith believe so, a good number have a conviction that it is the reason.
In the same report, the reaction of African American communities is different from the Arabic oriented culture as well as the Caucasian society. As a matter of fact, many people attribute disease and illnesses to four different causes namely factors within the individuals themselves like bad habits, mental or psychological stress, , factors of the environment like pollution dirty environment as well as germs, factors associated with the social world like other peoples roles and lastly supernatural factors like the supreme being or God.
In the case of Kochi, the family tends to focus on the religious aspect completely ignoring the aspect that the patient needs urgent chemotherapy and is dying from it sooner or later. Although there is some truth about the existence of miracle or unusual happenings even in the medical grounds when people heal or don’t show previous symptoms, the happenings are minute and are not much to account for. In fact the daughter of Kochi in this case blames the culturally insensitive doctors for letting the father be confused with the treatment.
The biggest effect which the cultural explanations have on the medical treatment ids the medical intervention sought by the victims. Just as it is in the case of interpreting the origin of the disease, the victims also look for intervention and treatment from places that are in tandem with their belief systems. Some religious cultures prohibit their member from seeking medical care from ‘westernized’ medical redress systems. Hospitalization and use of drugs that are manufactured is considered taboo. In fact some of the religious extremists don’t seek any medical attention at all. This brings complications and the diseases are likely to advance to stages where intervention is too late.
The director of the documentary Grainger-Monsen (2005) in an interview says that in the medical field some patients regret about the reluctance they have while others don’t show any to their graves. In the case of Mr. Kochi it was the case of a little too late because the family realized that the situation would have been much easier if handled in proper and medically testes ways.
Cultures are here to stay and the effect of their principles are felt in all aspects of life ranging from social lifestyle, economy and lifestyle as well as the medicinal values, Srivastava (2007). This is because of the mindset that the people who have the beliefs posses. That may be enough justification for them to be engraved in the practices that not only endangering their lives but also the people surrounding them. However it is important to give a difference between myth and fact because that is the only way to face that problem through education and fact telling.
The case of Kochi perfectly show the culture clash of the medicinal practice whereby the victim believe that the healing process is divine but on the other hand the medical world relies on the symptoms and evidence that the body of the patient shows to determine the disease and prescribe the medicines for it. In addition to that, the social aspect of the culture clashes with the medical theories and practices.
The documentary of Mohammed Kochi which displays the effect of belief systems and the conflict of interest with the medical ground is an eye opener. But it is important that the facts and myths be put on the table to solve the increasing situations of culture-medicine clash in the world.
In conclusion, all humans have a culture that they hold on to. It can be formal or informal conscious or otherwise but fact is that everybody has one. Mohammed Kochi’s story about the clash of Muslim faith and medicine is one example of the conflict of interest in this scenario. But with all outstanding situation truth about medicines must be justified with the best healing processes ever.
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