Marilyn Mochel, a nurse and clinical educator at Sutter Merced Medical Center (now Mercy Medical Center Merced), who heads the hospital's cross-cultural program, said in 1999 that "The book has allowed more dialogue. There's certainly more awareness and dialogue than before. Both sides are teachers and learners."
Lia Lee lived in a persistent vegetative state for 26 years. She died in Sacramento, California, on August 31, 2012 at the age of 30. At that age she weighed 47 pounds (21 kg) and was 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 m) tall; many children with severe brain damage have limited growth as they age. Outside of the State of California Lia Lee's death was not widely reported. Fadiman said that pneumonia was the immediate cause of death. Margalit Fox of The New York Times said "[b]ut Lia’s underlying medical issues were more complex still" because she had lived in a persistent vegetative state for such a long period of time. As of 2012 most individuals who go into that state die three to five years afterwards.