Epilepsy sufferers fear being laughed at or filmed if they have seizures in public as survey reveals one woman was MUGGED as she lay prone
23:05 GMT, 5 June 2012
Victim: Brannan was mugged while on the ground with a severe epilepsy seizure
People with epilepsy are reluctant to leave the house fearing they will be laughed at, mugged or even filmed while having a seizure, a study has found.
Commissioned by the charity Quarriers, which works with people with disabilities, the survey sheds light on the discrimination faced by people living with the most common neurological conditions.
Almost two-thirds of the 505 people interviewed in the poll said they worry about what passers-by would say or do if they had a seizure.
One woman said she was mugged while having a seizure.
Sara Brannan, from Glasgow, is an outpatient at the charity’s Scottish Epilepsy Centre. She said the experience had such a negative impact on her life that she no longer ventures out alone.
The 33-year-old mother-of-one said: 'I was lying unconscious during a seizure with my shopping bags on the ground.
'A man, who I now think may have been a drug addict, must have been standing behind me and spotted an opportunity. He told the gathering crowd I was his girlfriend and had overdosed. He took my money and my shopping bags.
'People usually ignore me if I have a seizure in public because they think I’m drunk or have been taking drugs.
'I’ve been told people have stepped over me while I’ve been lying unconscious.
'I was once kicked out of a shop just before I was about to take a seizure, after asking for a glass of water so I could take a tablet to try to prevent it coming on. I guess the shopkeeper thought I was an addict of some kind.'
Scotland women’s international footballer Julie Ferguson said she had been accused of cheating while having a seizure on the pitch.
Scorned: Footballer Julie Ferguson was accused of faking a seizure during a match
She added: 'I was playing for Hibernian at the time and we were in the semi-final of a cup game.
'We were losing and one of our players had been sent off, then I had a grand mal seizure.
'I was carried off the pitch and 10 minutes extra time was added to the game, during which we scored two goals and won. Some members of the opposition suggested I’d faked the seizure to get extra time.'
More than one in four of those questioned said they have been ignored and 28% said they had been laughed at as a result of having a seizure.
A quarter said they had been accused of faking or exaggerating a seizure, while 7% have even been filmed or photographed when at their most vulnerable.
Quarriers runs the Scottish Epilepsy Centre, an independent hospital based in Quarriers Village just outside Glasgow, which assesses and diagnoses more than 100 people each year from across the UK living with very complex forms of epilepsy and some who have been misdiagnosed.
Gerard Gahagan, head of clinical services at the charity, said: 'The survey results confirm attitudes towards people living with epilepsy in the UK have not changed for centuries.
'It appears we are stuck in the dark ages when it comes to how we treat those who suffer from one of the most common neurological conditions. These attitudes simply have to change – and fast.
'Around one in 100 people in the UK suffer from epilepsy, so there is a high probability perpetrators of the discrimination could actually have a relative or friend who is avoiding revealing they live with the condition because they fear what the reaction will be.'