Epilepsy In The News

Epilepsy is in the news this month, as television personality and co-host of E!’s “Fashion Police,” Kelly Osbourne, was hospitalized for five days after experiencing a seizure at work. The media went into an immediate frenzy, calling the episode an, “epileptic fit,” and referring to Osbourne as, “an epileptic.” Osbourne has since been released, with one of her representatives telling E! News, “Doctors ran numerous tests and determined that this was most likely a onetime episode of which there are no conclusive results.”

Epilepsy is a serious medical condition. It is a seizure disorder in which a person experiences repeated seizures. If the seizures are correctable and/or not repeated, as appears to be the case for Ms. Osbourne, then they are not considered epilepsy.

Here at Lauren’s Hope, many of our valued customers and their family members have epilepsy. While it is not one of the most common diagnoses people receive, it absolutely is one of the most common diagnoses for which people wear medical ID jewelry. In fact, we recently interviewed Lauren’s Hope Super Fan Kayla Kidwell, who shared with our readers why she wears an epilepsy medical ID bracelet every day.

What stood out to us wasn’t so much that the media went into speculation overdrive when Ms. Osbourne was hospitalized. That’s really to be expected. What surprised us was the language they used. “Epileptic fit”? “An epileptic”? The simple fact that the media used the antiquated term, “epileptic fit,” for dramatic effect (or out of ignorance) instead of calling a seizure simply what it is – a seizure – highlights the importance of raising awareness about seizure disorders and epilepsy. And while saying someone who has epilepsy is epileptic or is an epileptic isn’t truly wrong, the media should be aware that most people who have any disease or disorder prefer people-first language. To use Ms. Osbourne as an example, most people would have wanted to hear, “Osbourne may have epilepsy,” as opposed to, “Osbourne may be an epileptic,” or even the more acceptable, “Osbourne may be epileptic.”

In general, the modern thinking on language in the healthcare arena is that we should try to always put people first and their diseases, disorders, disabilities, and diagnoses a distant second. That means saying a child has autism as opposed to saying a child is autistic. It means saying a person has diabetes instead of referring to him or her as a diabetic. Perhaps to some it seems like political correctness and semantics that really don’t matter. But to those about whom these things are being said, overwhelmingly, what we hear is that words truly do matter.

What do you think? Do you use/prefer people-first language when discussing your own diagnosis, disease, or disability? Share your thoughts with us, and we may feature you on the Lauren’s Hope blog!

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