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The International Writers Magazine
Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers

Stupid Syndrome
...everyone wants Tourette's to be a "disorder" and a "syndrome"

Here at Hackwriters International Magazine, there's a column about my latest book on Tourette's Disease and Asperger's autism. The strangest things have happened to me throughout my life, but nothing so strange as the e-mail I received recently.
My request had been simple: I contacted a well known Tourette site and asked if they would establish a link to my site here at Hackwriters. The person who runs the show over there at that site told me I needed to remove the word "disease" from any references to Tourette's.
I must admit, I fairly exploded. My book is partially about that very subject. It's a conspiracy to deny that a disease is a disease! Why denial is so common with Tourette's Disease is beyond me. The person at that site explained to me that he had tried referring to Tourette's as a disease, and he got nothing but hate mail.
Poor him. Thick skin is the least protection we writers and scientists need.

But let's consider terms: everyone wants Tourette's to be a "disorder" and a "syndrome". A "syndrome" is a collection of related symptoms. Symptoms of what, you ask? Symptoms of a disease, known or unknown. A "disorder" is precisely what it says: a disorder of the mind or physiology caused by symptoms of a disease, known or unknown. Even physicians can't argue with Webster's.

So why is there such an uproar? Stigma. That's what it all amounts to -a label that no one wants, even if it helps. When I was diagnosed with Asperger's autism, I was advised to be careful: no one wants that stigma! Imagine the problems with being labeled! I couldn't believe the exclamation points I was hearing from these doctors.

Things should be labeled. They must be. How do we learn otherwise? Our very science is founded on labels. But -they must be correct and useful labels. I think horrible labels are tossed around too often: RETARD. NERD. GEEK. How often we use those breezily, as if there wasn't a care in the world, and forget anybody who might get hurt. Yet the experts themselves run away from one meaningful, important label: DISEASE.

Though cancer will certainly never be called a "syndrome" or a "disorder" (it makes too much money as a disease), can we ever deny what it is? I've lost seven family members to cancer over the last 20 years. Two members still struggle with it. Imagine how we'd feel if the experts came along and denied that cancer is a disease.

That's what they are doing with Tourette's Disease. This wasn't always true; in the 1959 "Taber's Medical Encyclopedia" Tourette's is listed as a disease, as it should be. Since then, the medical community has run away from that fact. That kind of running is costing people too much. That fear, the fear of a label, is responsible for the delay in thousands of diagnoses. Since I wrote my book, I discovered evidence that proves my teachers suspected Tourette's, but it was too ugly a label. They preferred to bury the truth and work around the dumpsite.

Well, enough hiding, enough lying, enough with the conspiracies of stupidity and ignorance! Science is not animism, accuracy is not lethal or even harmful - and a label can offer so much. Tourette's is a disease, like so many others, and we cannot make that go away by eliminating "labels", running, hiding or calling it something else.

© Rev Antonio Hernandez -
March 2004

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