The Eight Questions' Potential To Help Bridge Cross Cultural Barriers

654 words - 3 pages

Due to such challenges, some people have sought to provide cross-cultural solutions. One such person is Arthur Kleinman, a medical anthropologist, psychiatrist, and chair of the department of social medicine at Harvard Medical School who developed a set of eight questions that were “designed to elicit a patient’s ‘explanatory model’” (260). In other words, the Eight Questions are a set of questions to ask a patient and/or the patient’s family member(s) and/or twiv neeb (I will call these last two “relevant relaters”), and by hir answers, a doctor can better understand how ze sees hir illness and how ze sees healing. Specifically, the questions ask what the answerer calls the problem, what ze thinks has caused the problem, why ze thinks it started when it did, what ze thinks the sickness does and how it works, the sickness’s severity, whether it will have a short or long course, what kind of treatment ze thinks the patient should receive, what the most important results ze hopes the patient receives from this treatment are, what the chief problems the sickness has caused are, and what ze fears most about the sickness. I think questions like these are a good start for cross-cultural understanding by the American medical community because they are open-ended questions, thus the way the questions are answered will give more information. The answers will be in the patient (or relevant relater)’s own words, which will allow more insight into hir personality, values, and personal perspective. Even an apparently negative response can be helpful, such as the one Anne Fadiman provides, playing the part of the Lees, with regard to how long the sickness will last-- “Why are you asking us those questions? If you are a good doctor, you should know the answers yourself” (260). However, it is fair to note that the Lees might not have been so openly confrontational unless there was already a feeling of safety and...

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