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Sudden death in the shadows of epilepsy

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 15 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:349

UK government's action plan for epilepsy needs great commitment

  1. Edward Reynolds (, consultant neurologist
  1. Institute of Epileptology, King's College, Denmark Hill Campus, London SE5 9PJ

    In a widely acclaimed BBC production, The Lost Prince, the short and tragic life of Prince John, son of Britain's King George V and Queen Mary, and his sudden death in the early 20th century emerged from the shadows in which he had been hidden.1 He was hidden because of his epilepsy and learning disorder, and by the medical and social ignorance of his royal parents and advisers. Prince John has shared this fate with millions of others of all social classes and cultures before and since. In the 1920s, a few years after the death of Prince John in a seizure, the young Graham Greene received a diagnosis of epilepsy from a well known neurologist from Harley Street.2 Initially his embarrassed parents concealed the diagnosis from him. When Greene learned of it he also concealed it for nearly 50 years until in his autobiography he eloquently described the impact of the diagnosis, which had led him to contemplate suicide. His greatest concerns were inheritance and marriage. These two lives from the past highlight two continuing …

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