The story therefore begs the question of whether it is in the patient's best interest to privilege Western knowledge.Lia's story reveals the strength of the family within Hmong culture.
For example, Foua explained to Fadiman that she felt it was important to use both western medicine and neeb, or shamanic ritual.
The Hmong believe that sometimes people get sick due to something that happens to their soul, or because they encounter an evil spirit called a dab.
They believe that most disease has a spiritual cause and can be alleviated through traditional forms of healing such as rubbing the skin with coins, creating a vacuum by igniting cotton soaked in alcohol under a tiny cup, or drawing disease out with an egg.
A tvix neeb, or shaman, could conduct more powerful healing; such a figure is thought to be able to get rid of evil spirits called dabs and retrieve lost souls.
Even Fadiman, whose sympathies lie with the Lees, expresses this view: "Dwight Conquergood's philosophy of health care as a form of barter, rather than a one-sided relationship, ignores the fact that, for better or for worse, Western medicine is one-sided.
Doctors endure medical school and residency in order to acquire knowledge that their patients do not have" (276).
While most American families would have committed a daughter with brain damage to an institution, the Lees cared for Lia for 26 years, bathing her, dressing her impeccably, and even celebrating her birthday each year.
Their care is likely what kept her alive for so long, when the doctors believed she would die within days.
She alone among Lia's caregivers thought to ask Foua and Nao Kao about their beliefs about Lia's epilepsy and to learn about their customs.
Because of the love she showed them, Foua accepted her help and learned to administer Lia's medication, which led to regaining custody.