We are saddened to hear about the fatal shooting of actress Vanessa Marquez. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. From what has been shared in the media, we understand that Ms. Marquez was experiencing a seizure when the officers arrived.
Since we don’t have any details, other than what has been reported by members of the media, we can’t comment on the tragic events surrounding Ms. Marquez. However, this is an event that reminds us all in the epilepsy community why it is important for others to learn how to recognize seizures and administer Seizure First Aid.
The general public frequently does not recognize seizures, assuming incorrectly that seizures are only when people convulse. Although, most seizures usually last only for a few minutes, it is very common to have a period of confusion, dazedness, and lack of awareness following a seizure (post-seizure phase) when the person is unable to respond to directions or commands.
It is a cardinal rule of First-Aid not to restrain someone who is having a seizure or who is in the post-seizure period, as they may physically lash out in self-protection without volition. In some cases, when a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, or recurs regularly within a short period of time, seizures can become deadly and prompt medical treatment is needed to avoid this rare catastrophe. Standard first aid protocols for the various types are widely available at epilepsy.com/general-seizure-first-aid
Seizures are often unrecognized by the public, including police officers, first responders, firefighters and transit officers. Therefore, there is a long history of people having seizures or in a post-seizures state in public being mishandled or even physically harmed by law enforcement and first responders. Although, most of the time first responders and law enforcement do recognize a seizure and respond correctly, it is still not unusual for the police to fail to recognize that a seizure is occurring, has occurred, and/or that someone might be in a state of post-seizure confusion so that the person cannot respond to orders and commands, and may behave in unusual ways. This has unfortunately resulted in police mishandling of the seizure, including in some cases false arrest, imprisonment, criminal charges, and even more unfortunately, the tragic death of the person with epilepsy.
It is vital that first responders and law enforcement recognize and manage seizures and epilepsy appropriately. So, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Epilepsy Foundation has regularly provided epilepsy education and training to law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, and others. In fact, we recently conducted a training with Crisis Intervention Teams in Florida focused on epilepsy and seizure recognition and administering proper Seizure First Aid.
For more information about epilepsy and Seizure First Aid, please visit epilepsy.com.