helpline 01494 601 400

It's 'seizures' not 'fits' says epilepsy expert as doctors told to write more patient-friendly letters

Doctors have been told to use plain simple English rather than medical jargon when writing to their patients.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges launched a 'Please write to me' initiative that is designed to improve communications between doctors and patients and make hospital letters easier to understand.

The word 'seizure' to describe a person's epileptic seizures is among the terminology which the Academy is asking doctors to avoid . The Academy has said this should be replaced with the word 'fit'.

While welcoming the initiative, Epilepsy Society's medical director Professor Ley Sander has  said that the new guidelines on medical terminology fly in the face of preferences expressed by people with epilepsy.

Stigma around 'fit'

"Writing to people in plain English is fundamental to good communication and effective health treatment," he said. "This helps to empower people and enable them to take an active role in the management of their health condition and we fully welcome the Academy initiative.

"However, the term 'seizure' rather than 'fit' does not class as medical jargon in describing epileptic seizures. Some years ago people with epilepsy were asked in a survey what their preferred terminology was for describing their epilepsy. People were adamant that 'seizure' was more preferable to the word 'fit' which carried much stigma with it and in some contexts was used as a derogatory term.

Refer to seizures as seizures

"We still hear some people in clinic  talking about their 'fits', and that is certainly their prerogative. We would not question this. But as medics at a centre of excellence for epilepsy and as a national charity, which supports more than half a million people with epilepsy, we will still continue to respect the wishes of people with epilepsy and refer to seizures as seizures."

Let us know what you think. Email putting 'seizures or fits' as the subject.

Find out more

Read more about epilepsy terminology.


Share this article: