The Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana (EFG) is deeply disturbed by the media reports of the death of the late Zaharadeen Rozan of Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara, who apparently had been held in the Parika lock-ups just prior to his death on February 25, 2015.
The EFG would first wish to extend its deepest sympathy to the grieving family of the late Zaharadeen Rozan.
The media reports raise the following concerns:
- There are many types of seizures, not all of them due to epilepsy. The diagnosis of epilepsy in a living person is not straightforward, especially in Guyana where EEG facilities are not available. The diagnosis or even the inference of epilepsy on the basis of an autopsy seems quite far-fetched.
- It is highly unlikely that the late Mr Rozan would have been operating a minibus unless his seizures were being effectively managed and very well controlled, in which case his family would have known that he was an epileptic.
- The protocol for putting people in the lock ups, if it included eliciting information about the medical state of a prisoner, ought to have alerted the authorities to the possibility that the prisoner was prone to seizures.
- While it is quite possible that Mr Rozan died from “blunt trauma to the head, brain haemorrhage and hypertension,” as was reported, it is very difficult to associate “bite marks on the tongue” with an epileptic seizure that led to his sudden death. In the first instance, no evidence has been presented to indicate, as is being suggested, that the blunt trauma was the result of a (presumably grand mal) seizure. It is much more common for seizures to occur after “trauma to the head.” Unless therefore the autopsy revealed the sequence of what happened, it would simply be impossible to attribute causation to either event.
Second, while epilepsy can indeed be associated with sudden death from a seizure itself, and can happen even in patients with well controlled seizure disorders, such a catastrophe is relatively rare. While it is therefore possible that Mr Rozan died because of a seizure, it is highly unlikely that was the case.
- The EFG is dismayed that epilepsy is being associated with strange, erratic, “funny behaviour,” including “the prisoner hitting himself along the concrete walls of the lockups.” Such reports feed into and reinforce the awful stigma, myths and superstitions about epilepsy and seizures. These are precisely the things that lead to discrimination against epileptics at the workplace, in schools, and elsewhere in the wider society. While epilepsy (and the medication used to manage it) may cause persons to experience mood disorders, and while people suffering with epilepsy may display mental health and behavioural problems, it is important to note that epilepsy is a neurological disorder and in many places it is recognized simply as a disability.
We conclude by noting that it is our objective to improve how people suffering with epilepsy are accepted and valued in Guyana, and to ensure that such people are able to participate as fully as possible in all life experiences.
Persons wishing to contact us are asked to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas B Singh