Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Clinic Notes: Scientology and Autism

Jett Travolta's death is tragic. There is a lot of speculation regarding the role of Scientology in his death with some suggesting that his seizures could have been easily controlled with medication. In my clinic I see many children with various seizure disorders, as well as children with autism, 30%, of whom have seizures. Any pediatric neurologist will tell you that sometimes seizures can be hard to control with medication or a combination of medications. Usually the next step is to implant a vagus nerve stimulator, which delivers a mild shock to the brain when seizures start. Often this works, but not always. Surgery is the next step--cutting the corpus callosum, which connects the 2 hemispheres of the brain or more drastically removing a hemisphere. All of these procedures have side effects and often a decision has to be made as to whether or not the patient would be better off without treatment. I don't know the details of the Travolta case and I certainly take issue with Scientology's view of autism. But in this tragic case I think it is best for everyone to stop writing and speculating and give the family some privacy. And peace.

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