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September 12, 1980

The Unfairness of Life for Children With Handicaps

JAMA. 1980;244(11):1207-1208. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310110017019

LIFE is sometimes manifestly unfair. It is not always fair to those having normal intelligence and good health, but it is especially unfair to the handicapped, who are least able to cope with our modern, complex environment. There are many physical and mental handicaps that may impair a person's social functioning. Some conditions such as cerebral palsy are obvious, but many people are greatly impaired by conditions barely perceptible to society, in ways that are easy for physicians to overlook. Children with epilepsy and limited intelligence present special problems in this regard. A recent tragic failure by society, family, and medicine to help such a patient caused me to see these problems more clearly.

A Program for Failure  "Danny" was an 18-year-old who, since the age of 8 years, had had temporal lobe seizures probably as a result of an earlier head injury. His EEG had focal abnormalities over the