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Epilepsy and violence: case series concerning physical trauma in children of persons with epilepsy

Authors Gauffin H, Landtblom A

Received 27 May 2014

Accepted for publication 15 July 2014

Published 14 November 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 2183—2189


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Helena Gauffin1,2 Anne-Marie Landtblom1–4

1Department of Neurology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 2Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 3Neurology Unit, Department of Medical Specialist, General Hospital, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, IMM, County Council, Linköping University, Motala, Sweden; 4Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract: Historically, epilepsy has been associated with violence, but more recent studies have emphasized genetic and psychosocial factors as more important. The case series presented here aim to highlight the difficult situation the affected children are in. We report on three cases when children have been traumatized and, in one case, even been killed by their parent who was diagnosed with epilepsy. In the first case, we describe a woman with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy who was sentenced to forensic psychiatry care for killing her child. She lived under difficult psychosocial circumstances and a suicide attempt contributed to what happened. The second case describes a man with post-traumatic seizures who was sentenced for child abuse. Ictal or postictal violence was considered in these two cases but a causal link between the violence and epilepsy has not been established. In the third case, we describe a woman with focal epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNESs). Her child was hurt and frightened in relation to violent seizures, which were regarded as PNESs. This case series demonstrates that children of parents with epilepsy can be in a vulnerable situation. No causality has been established between the seizures and these events, so consequently other factors such as psychosocial stress, low cognitive function, and a suicide attempt must also be considered as important. When a child is hurt by a parent with epilepsy the patient must be closely examined to determine the role of the seizures. Children can also be affected by PNESs. It is essential to notice especially those children of parents with epilepsy who live under difficult psychosocial circumstances and offer extra support when necessary.

Keywords: homicide, epilepsy, child abuse, children, psychosocial, crime, law

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