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Tuesday 6th December 2016
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The stigma of epilepsy

10th June 2009

Epilepsy expert Professor Mark Richardson says the condition should receive the same attention as other causes of sudden death.

mandepressed1Q

It is a disease that is still associated with fear and stigma, even in 21st century Britain. But epilepsy also kills a thousand people every year.

Yet that fear and ignorance is preventing people from helping.

Driving from the regular outpatient clinic in a residential centre for people with severe epilepsy, I recently came across a man lying in the road with people on the pavement some distance away.

Thinking he had epilepsy, they thought they should not touch him so left him lying unconscious where he was in the rain.

Epilepsy affects one in 130 people but unlike asthma or diabetes, for example, otherwise normal people can suffer a sudden health crisis.

Those with it can be regarded as strange and even be discriminated against.

The attitude is unreasonable, given that treatment can be fully effective for 80% of those with epilepsy.

However, what is shocking is that 1,000 people – a third of them young adults and children – still die from it. Worse still, 40% of these deaths could be prevented by better medical care and treatment.

These deaths continue, despite efforts to educate healthcare professionals and the publication of comprehensive treatment guidelines.

A shift in attitude is needed - amongst all of us, to reduce stigma surrounding epilepsy; amongst healthcare professionals, to take epilepsy treatment and the risk of death more seriously; and amongst politicians and medical research funding bodies to lift epilepsy-related death out of the shadows and onto the agenda.

 

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