Friday, April 14, 2006

Ghost from the past

I read with great sadness the experience of a young women who was discriminated against because of her history of epilepsy. This person's letter to Today, published on 13 April 2006, recounts her experience of being sacked from her part time job in sales due to her history of epilepsy. This is in spite of the fact that she was free from epilepsy attacks for the last 6 years. That means that the last time she had a fit was when she was 11 years old.

Now, if you speak to a neurologist, he/she will tell you that 6 fit-free years is an good indication that the condition is well under control. People suffer from epilepsy for different reasons arising from different causes. In some cases, some people may have had fits when they were young, but they never have them as they grow older. Many ignorant people think, erroneously, that once a person has epilepsy fits, they will always have them. Which explains why the Manager sacked her. He/she was probably fearful that the girl will throw a fit right in front of her valuable customers, which will scare them off and ruin the good image and reputation of the company - a prestigious company at that.

As I say, this is very sad as this Polytechnic student will enter the job market with many doubts, and perhaps some fear. Doubts not so much about her intellectual, social and emotional abilities, but doubts about whether, for example, she should truthfully state her medical condition in job application forms or not. This is a real dilemma. To do so may mean that she will be passed over without any further consideration even if she possesses the right qualifications. Not to do so will be to knowingly tell a lie. Should the firm find out about the condition after engaging her, she will face almost certain sacking - not for the medical condition but for being dishonest.

I think that epilepsy education and/or awareness is still lacking, and probably will continue to be lacking. Ironically this is happening in our medically and educationally advanced country. So many myths about epilepsy is still being passed around in casual conversation if only because an epileptic fit is always so dramatic, and yes, frightening to people. The problem is that there are many types and manifestations of epilepsy. If one doesn't know better, myth usually accompanies ignorance. A neurologist I know once remarked that the probability of one dying from a car accident is higher than any harm that may come from an epilepsy attack.

Perhaps I can do no better than to point you to various sources where you can find out more about the true nature of epilepsy. Hopefully you will understand better the person who has been diagnosed with epilepsy and give them the leeway and respect they desserve in having to overcome prejudices and misunderstanding.

Epilepsy - The Facts
Basics of Seizures & Epilepsy

Epilepsy Organisations on the Web
Epilepsy Foundation
Int'l Bureau for Epilepsy
Int'l League Against Epilepsy

Country Specific
American Epilepsy Society
National Institudes of Health
The Charlie Foundation
Guide to Healthcare Schools

- Singapore
Singapore Epilepsy Foundation
Epilepsy Care Group Singapore
National Neuroscience Institute

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