Staff Reporter

Indian Epilepsy Association celebrates National Epilepsy Day today

  • Epileptics are not insane, imbecile, incompetent or criminal, says IEA hon. secretary
  • Epileptics also face problems in obtaining life and health insurance

    VISAKHAPATNAM: There is a need to change societal attitudes towards epileptics as well as bringing in legislations that end discrimination and more importantly, initiate affirmative action. Besides there is the question of their being discriminated against in education and employment.

    "Epilepsy should not be equated with insanity or mental retardation and epileptics should not be barred from acting as a witness, making a will, contesting election or holding a public post," says K. Venkateswarlu, professor and head of the Department of Neurology, Andhra Medical College, and honorary secretary of Indian Epilepsy Association (IEA), Visakhapatnam chapter. On whether epileptics can commit crime, he opines by and large, premeditated and organised direct attack towards another individual or object, as sole manifestation of epilepsy does not occur. Epileptics face problems in obtaining life and health insurance.

    Affirmative action

    Dr. Venkateswarlu sees logic in the dual approach of those seeking benefits to epileptics just as other physically challenged persons are given and the justified contention that majority of patients are almost healthy except during occasional seizures and they should not be deprived of any of the privileges of a citizen. As such, epileptics should not be negatively discriminated because they are not insane, imbecile, incompetent or criminal, he contends.

    Employment issues

    With regard to driving licences, he says the law should make well-defined provisions for granting them to different categories on the basis of severity and control of epilepsy, particularly seizure-free interval from the last fit.

    Dr. Venkateswarlu analyses the predicament of an epileptic vis-à-vis the "prejudice and ignorance" of employers and says there is no evidence to support the notions like "people with epilepsy have high accident rates, may place others in danger, they have low levels of performance and productivity or high absence rate etc."

    The IEA has been relentlessly fighting against discrimination and after a long legal battle they could get the law that forbids individuals with epilepsy to marry repealed. The issue of driving licence is pending in courts.

    Disclosing that a panel of experts is preparing guidelines regarding disability and epilepsy, Dr. Venkateswarlu rues that it takes painfully long time to bring about change in societal attitudes. To enact legislation is one thing and implementing it effectively is another. But it is worth the trouble, he asserts.