Views & Reviews Medical Classics

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 07 July 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c3524
  1. Fred Kavalier, general practitioner, London
  1. kavalier{at}

    Educational warning: This book will teach you something important about non-compliant patients.

    The title of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the literal translation of the Hmong words for epilepsy. All doctors know about epilepsy; virtually none know about the Hmong people. They are an ethnic group who lived in China for hundreds of years.

    The Hmong have often been thought of as “outsiders.” Over the centuries they have resisted taming by various domineering governments and oppressors. When things get tough the Hmong often move on. In recent times their main homeland has been in Laos.

    During the Vietnam war and its aftermath things got particularly difficult …

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