Neuroscientific Context

Background Research


Brief Information of the publisher
The Austin American Statesman, the local paper of Austin, Texas has a “focus on issues affecting Austin and the central Texas region” (The Statesman (TAAS)). It is owned and operated by Cox Enterprises who have a large stronghold on communications and information within the United States. There is potential for publication bias within general press. Based on the nature of this article (court report), bias is unlikely as the information conveyed is to close the case.

Intention of the Article
An article of court proceedings serves to inform of the closing of the long running court hearing and thus the main purpose is to report on the court verdicts and offer a final condolence for the family and friends of the victim. In the case of T.D. Klaerner it serves not only to close the case but as indirect Epilepsy awareness and its potential harm to others through neglect and errors of judgment. Klaerner showed both by driving while knowing that he had a mental or physical condition that prevented his ability to drive safely.

Target Audience
Klaerner’s case is of particular interest to the general public as it is “…rare for someone to be charged with manslaughter in a crash caused by a medical condition…” (M. Hitti (WedMD)).
Persons directly and indirectly connected to the victim and/or offender, are inadvertently targeted as a last effort to console losses and accept the fate of those close to them to end the case. There is also an emphasis on persons suffering from or connected to someone with epilepsy.
For a person with epilepsy to attain a driver's license certain highly personal information, like one's medical history, become mediating factors in whether or not they are considered eligible. One such regulation states that “any patron of Texas with epilepsy, newly diagnosed or existing diagnosis has their license checked every six-twelve months and approved by a Medical Advisory Board of approved physicians who make the concluding decision” (Texas Department of State Health Services). The inclusion of such information spins a cautionary tale for persons affected; there is no leniency when life is put at risk or, in the case of Mr Klaerner, when someone is tragically killed.

It must be recognized that driving is often critical to employment, socialization and self-esteem as these are all aspects of the modern lifestyle. The fear of losing this freedom climbs to the top of many patient's list of concerns about their disorder. Being of such great importance in today’s society, particularly in the United States, imposed restrictions can affect the quality of life of these individuals.
People with epilepsy may hold a drivers license in Texas as long as they have not had a seizure for at least six months. In Australia this period ranges from twelve months to two years depending on the state. Mr Klaerner was reported to be unable to go “more than a month without an episode and that sometimes they occur several times a day” (TAAS). This directly excludes him from provisional range of holding a license and affects daily activities such as working and grocery shopping.
An appropriate standardizing of licenses has always raised questions and concerns. Epilepsy is not a disease. It is more a symptom of disease. Everyone’s case is unique (different) and this has the potential to affect quality of life of suffers who have “no control” over when and where they might seize.
Assuming that quality of life was affected by not having the ability to drive, then legislation has not yet been placed to aid with such provision, but if quality of life is unchanged, and the offender aware of his/her condition and that their license “under review” the choice to drive is no longer sound and moral. It becomes selfish.

This article not only underpins that the law holds no leniency for neglect, it also presents the need for better services to improve the quality of life for people suffering medical and neurological conditions such as epilepsy so that there is a much lower risk of injuring themselves and others.

Assessing Fitness to Drive, Seizures and epilepsy. Fourth Edition, Austroads Ltd, Sydney 2012, p75. http://www.austroads.com.au/assessing-fitness-to-drive/
Cox Enterprises. Corporate Overview. Last Updated: 20/8/12
Epilepsy Foundation of South Australia, Driving with epilepsy. Last updated: 2008
Epilepsy Society of Australia. Driving with Epilepsy. Last Updated 5/5/09

Texas Department of State Health Services. Epilepsy and Driving with Epilepsy. Last Updated: 15/3/12
The Austin American Statesman. Man Sentences to three years in prison. Last Updated: 21/9/12 Accessed: 20/8/12, 22/8/12, 1/9/12, 7/9/12, 21/9/12
Wikipedia. Epilepsy and Driving. Last Updated: 21/9/12

Hitti,M. Epilepsy Causes Few Fatal Car Accidents. WebMD (The study appears in the September issue of the journal Neurology.)
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