Hundreds of people say a Michigan doctor falsely diagnosed them with epilepsy. He wouldn’t be the first to lie to patients about how sick they are.
headaches started when Mariah Martinez was 10 years old. It was 2003,
and she was living in Dearborn, Michigan, with her mother and two
sisters. Whenever a headache struck, she would want to put her head
down, stay in the dark, and be alone.
saw her primary-care physician, who referred her to Yasser Awaad, a
pediatric neurologist at a hospital that was then known as Oakwood
Healthcare. Right away, Martinez told me, Awaad ordered an
electroencephalogram, or EEG, a test that uses electrodes to detect
abnormal electrical activity in the brain. In a small room, Martinez was
wrapped in bandages and had wires placed all over her head. The
procedure required her to be sleep-deprived; she came in on one or two
hours of sleep after staying up much of the night watching TV.
After performing two EEGs a week apart, Awaad, according to court documents, told Martinez’s mother that her daughter had what are called atypical partial absence seizures. Rather than full-body convulsions, absence seizures are those in which a person stares off into space, blinks, or makes small, repetitive motions. Martinez was confused by the diagnosis; she didn’t know what epilepsy was. Awaad, she said, told her that headaches or staring spells could be signs she was having a seizure, or had just had one. So each time she caught herself daydreaming, she thought, Oh my God, I had a seizure!