Epilepsy: Not Associated With Committing Violent Crimes

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Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition, where seizures usually occur. This disorder affects about 50 million people worldwide. Most opinions of experts and public say that epilepsy can lead to commission of violence. Nonetheless, according to the large Swedish study initiated by University of Oxford’s Seen Fazel and her colleagues at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden and the Swedish and Probation Service, having epilepsy is not directly linked to a higher likelihood of committing violent crimes. Furthermore, they stated that there is a greater risk of people who had previous traumatic injury to commit such crimes. This study was published in PLos Medicine this week.

The authors stated that their findings’ implications may have variations in the context of clinical services, criminal justice system and patient charities. This study involved all people with epilepsy and traumatic brain injury in Sweden from 1973 to 2009. Then, they made a match of every case with 10 persons from the general public not suffering from such conditions. Furthermore, they associated the records to succeeding information on all violent crime convictions, utilizing the Swedish residents’ personal identification numbers found in national registries.

These researchers discovered that 4.2% of people having epilepsy were convicted at least once for a violent crime after they were diagnosed, in comparison with 2.5% of the general public. Nonetheless, the link between their diagnosis with epilepsy and their conviction for violence vanished, after the control for the family situation was made – where epileptics were compared with their healthy siblings. On the other hand, it was revealed that there is still a relation exiting between having traumatic brain injury and commission of violence. This was found after the authors made a control for substance abuse or a comparison of those with brain injury with their healthy siblings.

The authors stated that their sample, that involved more than 22, 000 people each for epilepsy ad brain injury groups, was over 50 times bigger than those in previous epilepsy researches and 7 times bigger in brain injury studies. They further said that they observed that the reported risks for violence of people with epilepsy and traumatic brain injury are varied considering the subtype, severity, and age diagnosed of every case. Moreover, they suggested that this can be a useful point of discussion of the stigma related to these conditions among patient charities. This may also help in enhancing screening and management of patients and prisoners having brain injury, to minimize number of offenders.

Additionally, although the investigation is based on conviction data, the authors believe that estimated risks were less likely to be influenced since other studies depicted that the underestimation degree of violence is the same in psychiatric patients and controls, in comparison with self-report measures. Also, the general violent crime rates and resolution are quite alike in Western Europe, which implies some generalizability of the results.

This study, which encompassed a large population and had a 35-year follow up of the participants, can lay the grounds for improving health care in the context of epilepsy and brain injury patients. Furthermore, this can motivate others to conduct relevant studies.




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