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Religious beliefs about causes and treatment of epilepsy.

Ismail, Hanif, Wright, John, Rhodes, Penny and Small, Neil (2005) Religious beliefs about causes and treatment of epilepsy. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 55 (510). pp. 26-31.

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It has been acknowledged that religious and complementary therapies are commonly used among South Asian communities in the UK. However, little is known about their religious beliefs in relation to epilepsy and the type of South Asian therapies that they use to treat the condition.


To explore the influences of spiritual and religious beliefs on explanation of the cause of epilepsy, and the choice of treatment in people of South Asian origin who have epilepsy.


Qualitative study using interviews with patients, carers, health professionals, and focus groups of people from minority ethnic communities.


Bradford and Leeds.


Semi-structured individual interviews with 20 Muslims, six Sikhs, and four Hindus with epilepsy; 16 nominated carers (family members, friends); 10 health professionals (specialist GPs, neurologists, specialists nurses, social workers, community GPs); and two focus groups with a total of 16 South Asians without epilepsy.


It was found that over half of responders attributed their illness to fate and the will of God, or as punishment for sins of a past life. Some patients had experienced prejudice from people who believed that their epilepsy was contagious. A strong network of traditional healers was found, providing a parallel system of health care in the UK and on the Indian subcontinent. People turned to religiospiritual treatments in desperation for a cure, often under the influence of their families after the perceived failure of Western medicine. Such treatments were viewed as complementary rather than as an alternative to Western medication. Younger people in particular expressed considerable scepticism about the effectiveness of these traditional South Asian treatments.


In this study's South Asian sample, patients commonly turned to traditional healers in search of better health. Health professionals should be aware of the belief systems of these patients and understand the types of treatments in common use. Although these treatments might potentially compete with Western health care, they are used as an adjunct rather than a substitute. Patients have a 'healthy' scepticism about the effectiveness of such treatments, and adherence to medical therapy does not appear to be affected.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RM Therapeutics. Pharmacology
School/Department: School of Science, Technology and Health
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/937

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