Friday, June 21, 2002
Letter to the Editor
On June 1, The Chronicle ran a Metro section article about Effingham County Sheriff Jay Space ("Sheriff faces inquiry") who is under scrutiny because he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The story reported a series of incidents reported by his fellow officers who are worried that the disease has diminished his capacity to function as sheriff.
As co-directors of the Augusta MS Center, we are familiar with the problems of MS and share a concern for Mr. Space, who is battling a serious disease. But we also feel that Mr. Space, and other MS patients, are also battling a lack of understanding about their illness. These misunderstandings cause unjustified fears, which add to the burdens of patients who must struggle daily to cope with the effects of multiple sclerosis.
We are not involved in the care or treatment of Mr. Space and cannot comment upon his particular circumstances. But it is true that, for the majority of patients, most experience very few problems 10 years after they are diagnosed with MS. With aggressive treatment and rehabilitation, many MS patients can continue to work and drive, and do so effectively.
While it is also true that MS can affect thinking and behavior, verbal outbursts, anger, belligerence and aggressive, irrational actions are not characteristics of the disease. Caution should be used before linking these atypical behaviors with the diagnosis of MS.
We hope that Mr. Space - and everyone who has MS - gets appropriate evaluation and care, so they can continue to lead productive lives.
Mary D. Hughes, M.D., Pamela Salazar, M.D. Augusta
(Editor's note: The writers are co-directors of Augusta MS Center at
the Medical College of Georgia.)
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