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The Role of Compassion Essay


In her book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman explores the experience of a Hmong family struggling through the healthcare system of California. This book can throw light on the challenges faced by these people who have to confront a different socio-cultural environment. This source can be better analyzed with the help of the essay Mother Tongue written by Amy Tan.

This author also discusses the interactions between people who have different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. It is possible to apply such a concept as compassion in order to examine the themes which Anne Fadiman explores in her work. This notion can be defined as the ability of an individual to understand and fill pity for the suffering of another person. To a great extent, this ability is critical for interactions between people who can have different cultural or linguistic backgrounds.

While Anne Fadiman’s this book seems to be primarily related to the impact of linguistic and cultural barriers on the experiences of immigrants, Amy Tan’s essay suggests that their difficulties can be explained primarily by lack of compassion which is essential for the emotional well-being of individuals. This is the main thesis that should be elaborated more closely.

Anne Fadiman’s book is a valuable source that can illustrate the problems which emerge when immigrants have to interact with healthcare professionals. It should be kept in mind that the representatives of foreign cultures often question “the efficiency of Western medical techniques” (Fadiman 23). As a rule, these people “require more time and attention” since the services of an interpreter are needed (Fadiman 25). These are some of the details that should be considered.

This text’s text can be analyzed with help of Ami Tan’s essay Mother Tongue, and this reading indicates that language barriers can significantly impair the experiences of immigrants. This source demonstrates that a person may find it extremely difficult to express his/her thoughts very clearly.

It is usually argued that they speak in “broken or fractured English” (Tan 48). Moreover, it is often assumed that these people think in a primitive way. The author speaks about her mother who also struggled with the language barrier. Many people assumed that “her English reflected the quality of what she had to say” (Tan 48). Thus, one can speak the discrimination against these individuals.

Admittedly, Anne Fadiman also provides numerous examples indicating that linguistic and cultural differences can prevent people from integrating into the society. For instance, the author mentions that medical professionals often have to communicate with teenaged children of patients and discuss such issues as surgery or resuscitation of “a dying family member” (Fadiman 25).

In most cases, such experiences are extremely stressful for family members. Moreover, Anne Fadiman’s book shows that physicians often had “no way of taking a patient’s medical history”; as a result, their choices of treatment could often be questioned (Fadiman 25). Therefore, the emphasis on linguistic barriers is quite justified.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this problem is not the only reason why many immigrants can face significant difficulties. In many cases, their hardships can be explained by the inability or unwillingness of many individuals to feel compassion for the problems of others.

In order to illustrate this argument, one should look at the situation described by Amy Tan. In particular, this author mentions that her mother was suspected to have a benign brain tumor (Tan 48). The physicians lost her CAT scan and did not apologize for this mistake.

These people did not consider that she had been very “anxious to know the exact diagnosis” (Tan 49). Nevertheless, they only said that “she had come for nothing” (Tan 49). As a rule, individuals, who are treated in this way, often feel helpless or even desperate. This is why lack of compassion is one of the factors that profoundly affect the experiences of immigrants who are often left to their own devices. This is one of the main arguments that can be put forward.

It is possible to examine Anne Fadiman’s work from this specific perspective. For instance, when Lia was brought to the hospital, she was immediately diagnosed with “early bronchiopneumonia” (Fadiman 26). Yet, the physician did not consider the possibility that her symptoms could be explained by epilepsy (Fadiman 26).

A single conversation with parents could have helped him make the correct diagnosis. However, he did not try to do it. Later, Lia’s parents were asked by to give her certain drugs, and she was almost immediately discharged from hospital (Fadiman 26). Lia’s father was asked to sign the following statement, “I hereby acknowledge receipt of the instructions indicated above” (Fadiman 26).

The physician did not even make sure that parents could fully understand his instructions. This medical worker did not want to make extra effort. So, his indifference is one of the aspects that should be considered. Later, Lia was hospitalized once again, and the physicians made the same misdiagnosis. This is one of the most striking examples that should be considered. Provided that physicians had some compassion for this family, they would have used the services of an interpreter who could speak the Hmong language.

In this way, they could have eliminated the risk of misdiagnosis. Moreover, they might have considered that Lia’s parents felt virtually helpless when they had to deal with healthcare professionals. The main issue is that the physicians were not willing to discuss Lia’s condition with her parents. This is why this child did not receive appropriate medical assistance on time. This is the main problem should not be overlooked by the readers. Admittedly, there were some people who were genuinely willing to help Lia’s parents.

For example, one can mention Dan Murphy who immediately realized how frightened these people had been because they did not know how to help their daughter. Due to his effort, Lia’s parents received at least some support. This example is important for showing how the attitudes of physicians could differ from one another.

To a great extent, these examples suggest that immigrants may face a great number of challenges while trying to integrate into a new community. Certainly, their limited knowledge of English can be the cause of their hardships. However, more attention should be paid to the lack of compassion since this attitude makes their hardships virtually unbearable.

Admittedly, the role of cultural barriers should not be disregarded, but their impact can be mitigated provided that people try to put themselves in the position of one another. One can say that Anne Fadiman is useful for understanding the peculiarities of cross-cultural interactions. In turn, Amy Tan’s essay can throw a new light on the ideas that Anne Fadiman tries to express. These are the main details that should be taken into consideration.

Works Cited

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Print.

Tan, Amy. “Mother Tongue”. Across Cultures: A Reader for Writers. Ed. Sheena Gillespie and Robert Becker. New York: Longman, 2010. 46-52. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2018, November 28). The Role of Compassion. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-compassion/

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"The Role of Compassion." IvyPanda, 28 Nov. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-compassion/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Role of Compassion." November 28, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-compassion/.


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IvyPanda. "The Role of Compassion." November 28, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-compassion/.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "The Role of Compassion." November 28, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-role-of-compassion/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'The Role of Compassion'. 28 November.

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