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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Medicine

By Peter V
492 Views | 8 Comments | 7/15/2017 1:40:15 PM

Yong and I are at the doctor’s office. She has had some worrying symptoms lately. Indeed, the fact that we are here is some indication of the severity of the problem. The Chinese medical model does not dictate running to the doctor’s office at the first sign of a cough or occurrence of a broken fingernail. Instead there exists a list of foods you should or shouldn’t eat depending upon your specific condition as well as a host of concoctions to ingest to assist in the healing process.

 

If Yong at the doctor’s office is one surprise, I am soon treated to a second one. In response to the doctor’s questioning about the onset and progression of the symptoms, Yong declares that she has already taken a dose of levofloxacin, an antibiotic.

 

The doctor’s mouth drops open. She looks at Yong like a librarian at a patron who has just started talking in something besides a hushed tone, like a policeman staring at someone he’s just pulled over who informs him she did not know ‘red’ meant ‘stop’. Like you look at someone who has just violated one of the fundamental rules of the social order: you don’t speak in a normal tone at the library, you don’t run red lights at will, and you don’t just start yourself on a dose of antibiotics.

 

The doctor is not especially thrilled with me either, since the antibiotics were ones I was recently given for some overseas travel. But it is to Yong her wrath is directed and she begins to lecture her on the dangers of the activity she has just undertaken. Beyond the threat that antibiotic overuse poses to society, the doctor informs Yong that because she has ingested an antibiotic any diagnostic tests will be of limited value.  The doctor continues her lecture. Antibiotics are dangerous, she warns. You can’t just take them like candy. I see Yong nodding her head the way she has nodded her head at me when we have had similar conversations about Western medicine, and I know this means that nothing is getting through.

 

In one sense, I admire Yong’s disregard of the doctor’s advice. Western culture in general and Americans in particular tend to ascribe to doctors an almost god-like status and remunerate them accordingly. In much of the rest of the world, and certainly in the culture of China, this is not the case. Doctors are respected and admired. But divinity is not accorded to them, nor is their pay the astronomical, off-the-charts, mind bending salary most doctors in America receive. As a result, the cost of medical services in China is dramatically less. 

 

Because of her opinion of doctors, Yong views their treatment regimens less like commands from a mountain top and more like suggestions from a friend.  A well-intentioned and admittedly well-informed friend. But not a friend who possesses any secret insight or special training that qualifies them to be the final word on a subject. She is as likely to follow the advice as not.

 

And this is where the problem arises. On the one hand, I want her to receive the best treatment possible. For me, this means she should follow the advice of the best trained doctors in the world, doctors who graduate from top-ranked medical schools, who did internships at world renowned hospitals, and who are accredited by the appropriate bodies. On the other hand, I also respect her autonomy, the ultimate control she has over the decisions impacting her body. So what to do when her view of medicine says to let the body take its course and the view I ascribe to says to take the physician recommended treatment?

 

I suspect this conflict--the conflict that can arise from differing views of medicine--is an issue that interculturally mixed marriages confront in a higher proportion than marriages within a culture. Unless the marriage involves one member being an Amish or a Christian Scientist (and these groups tend pretty much to intermarry), an American husband and wife will have no compunction about following their doctors’ advice.

 

From Marcus Welby MD to House, Americans have been fed a constant diet television shows espousing physicians’ diagnostic brilliance, technical mastery, and near God-like command over life and death. When this isn’t the case, when an intercultural couple disagree about this issue, it can be as consequential as the problems that arise for Western couples who have different religious views and or discordant political orientations.

 

Unfortunately, I have to end it here because I don’t have any solutions to propose. The moral of the story—if there is any--is that in an intercultural marriage there are some issues you can see coming—like where to live and what to eat—and some—like this one—that will catch you by surprise. In any case, if there is one thing an intercultural marriage is not, it is this: it is not predictable.

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(Showing 1 to 8 of 8) 1
#2017-07-15 14:19:45 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, please forgive as I set about pissing you off, and even moreso the Medical Doctors who are members, and there are a few. For I have a considerably different viewpoint of the medical profession as it currently performs than you do. In fact, I hold them in much less regard than even your dear does. 

Of course, some Doctors are exceptional and deserve nothing but our utmost respect, but as a group I can't decide which are more deserving of contempt; the medical professsion who has basically abandoned any pretense of caring about our being healthy, the legal profession who have en masse abandoned any pretense of wishing to preserve the rule of law, or the politicians, who have corrupted our governments to the point where they are nothing more than one giant ponzi scheme from which the money flows into their pockets. 

Medical Doctors have wholly deserted the original tenets of thier trade, which was to try to keep us humans healthy as opposed to doing their best to keep us sick while we eat chemical garbage in the form of pharmaceuticals that are prescribed for life and are designed not to cure us, but to simply hide from us the very symptoms of our diseases that should be prompting us to start eating and exercising so as to expel said diseases, not live with them.

You and Yong might have asked your Doctor, if she didn't want you eating anit-biotics like it was candy, then why were she and her colleagues feeding them to us like they were candy over these many years. The reason we can no longer expect antibiotics to work for us is because Doctors, at the behest of Big Pharma, have been pushing them on us as the cure for everything for most of our lives. Stubbed your toe, take an antibiotic, got something in your eye, better take an antibiotic.

I could go on, but I won't. My hat goes off to Yong, though, for she has it right.

#2017-07-16 07:29:08 by Barry1 @Barry1

@woaizhongguo

 

"Yong and I are at the doctor’s office. She has had some worrying symptoms lately. Indeed, the fact that we are here is some indication of the severity of the problem"

My best wishes to Yong, Peter. I know that illness and disease can be a nightmare journey to travel through with a partner. Because it affects the two of you, not just one. I'm sure that  if we all had a voice, everyone here in the CLM community would be pulling for Yong to come through better than ever before.

 

Cheers mate.  (beer)(y)

#2017-07-16 11:39:07 by melcyan @melcyan

Peter, you have raised a very important topic. It would be good if we could hear of encounters that others have experienced with this problem.

#2017-07-16 19:19:41 by paulfox1 @paulfox1

@peterV

I agree wholeheartedly with @JohnAbbot on this. Medical doctors are all taught the same methodology from the same textbooks, regardless of which university they attend.

If you suffer with a headache due to a trapped nerve in your neck, then what good are headache pills?

Doctors treat symptoms, not causes. Their job is to keep the big Pharma companies in business, ripping us all off for billions of dollars per year, while slowly killing us.

Dr Royal Rife had a cure for cancer some 80 years ago, yet it was supressed in favour of expensive chemotherapy that just ends up killing you anyway.

My colleague has a wonderful idea. He said that if ever he got cancer, he would take 2 bottles of rum to the Canadian woodland, sit under a tree in the freezing cold, drink the rum, fall asleep and freeze to death while not knowing a thing about it.

In China, it's urally a case of 'drink more water'. (Yes, 'urally' is how many Chinese pronounce the word 'usually')

Paralysed from the neck down? Drink more water. Brain tumour? Drink more water.

I've been doing some research lately into the effects of 'placebos', and the results are quite startling. It's amazing how many people become cured of quite serious diseases by taking salt tablets in the belief they are some kind of wonder-drug.

The human mind is an amazing piece of biological craftsmanship. It's just a shame we allow it to become indoctrinated with bullshit.

#2017-07-17 19:13:03 by melcyan @melcyan

Whenever my partner sees a medical professional other than her GP she takes me with her. My job is to translate the English that she uses to English that the medical professional can understand and vice versa. Her GP is very competent and speaks Mandarin.

 

I concentrate intensely during these medical appointments. I try my best to understand what my partner is thinking and the role that she sees Chinese medicine and Western medicine have to play. It is like walking on a tightrope. My partner has problems with her teeth, spine and eyes. Unfortunately, all three sets of problems are degenerative. However, the right physical treatment and the right medications can slow the deterioration considerably. I constantly give her praise for her daily choices that are medically sound.

 

In order for me to keep her on the right track medically, I also need to let her have “medical” wins with me. I drink a lot more water every day. Not just any water but warm/hot water. I get more sleep. I eat healthier foods.  I try to keep my weight down. I use a moisturiser every day.

 

I learnt very early in our relationship that an overweight Westerner who makes unhealthy choices with food, drink and exercise has zero medical credibility with a Chinese person like my partner. If the Chinese woman and the Western man bend towards the other culture on the right issues they will both be better off.

 

I sincerely hope Yong’s medical problems are being resolved. If you can find a Mandarin speaking competent GP for her I am sure that will greatly assist with achieving the best possible medical outcome for Yong. Wishing you and Yong all the best. 

 

#2017-07-19 20:13:13 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@John Abbot: I am no fan of doctors, especially American doctors, who seem particularly in the grasp of big Pharma, and share as well your contempt for lawyers (except at least one I know) and poiticians. But right now Yong has a not uncommon condition that evidence suggests could be treated by medication and she refuses to take it. Test results demonstrates she has the condition and the symptoms she has seems to me to verify it. The evidence is that the medication would alleviate the syptoms. But she refuses to take it. On the whole,I agree to try non-Western medical approaches first. But at this point, even a skeptic like myself believes that the doctor has it right, and it is hard to watch Yong endure symptoms I believe she could be cured of. On the other hand, 

@Barry 1: Thank you for your kind wishes

@paufox1: Yes, I know about the placebo effect. It certainly demonstrates the mind's ability to heal the body in many cases. But speaking of cancer, I've just been reading a biography of Bob Marley, who essentially did what you suggested for cancer (except using marijuana), and we know how well that turned out. If he had undergone a routine procedure, he would probably be alive today. 

@melcyan: Thanks for the wise advice. A Mandarin speaking physician would certainly be helpful. Unfortunately, the are non-existent here. I am seriously considering moving just in order to get her one.

#2017-07-20 14:20:45 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, it has occurred to me after reading the comments of others and of yourself, that I was so focussed on my own growing disdain for doctors, lawyers and government chiefs, that I failed to even consider that Yong might have been suffering from a serious condition. I do apologize for treating her actual health issue as if it barely existed. And I do, very sincerely, hope she is okay.

#2017-07-20 20:56:13 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo

@JosnAbbot: Thank you. The condition is not life threatening but it does cause painful symptoms. She claims she has lived this long without treating it and I see her point. But the evidence suggests that the medication would alleviate the symptoms. But it is not an easy call. I cut off my "on the other hand" above. And I was going to say, on the other hand,every medication has side effects. So I am not completely sold. At the end of the day, I need to respect her self-determination, although as @melcyan points out above, on close calls you can definitely try to influences. A skill called motivational interviewing (which I picked up during my MSW and will write about in another blog) can be helpful at such times. But again, thank you and everyone for your concern and well wishes and I will keep you posted.

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