Robin Williams’s Lewy Body Disease

Lewy Bodies

Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, turned out to have Lewy Body Disease. His widow has written a poignant and informative essay on their struggles with the disease in the current Green Journal.

I think these kinds of accounts can be quite valuable. It’s one thing to study symptoms, signs, pathophysiology, treatment, and prognosis in a reference book or article. But to really refine the diagnostic art, one must become acquainted with the kinds of stories that patients and family members tell. After all, patient don’t usually recite a bulleted list of classic medical symptoms: Asosmia, resting tremor, accelerated forgetting, etc. They tell a story in their own words and it’s our job to parse the story and try to fit it into a medical frame.

We all have have heard a number of stories that is limited by our experience–a relatively small (but rapidly growing) number for residents and a relatively large number for senior clinicians. These kinds of essays can, in just a few minutes, provide memorable information that adds to our differential diagnostic abilities.

About Justin A. Sattin

I'm a vascular neurologist and residency program director. I created this blog in order to share some thoughts with my resident and other colleagues, and to foster my own learning as well.
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3 Responses to Robin Williams’s Lewy Body Disease

  1. Michel Accad says:

    Thank you for the link. Indeed, a moving testimony. I must note that it is also laced with mind-body dualism, so prevalent in our modern conception of the self.

    When Williams’ diagnosis was revealed, I pondered on the inconsistency of the assisted suicide laws.

    (For clarity, I oppose assisted suicide).

    • Justin A. Sattin says:

      Good points both. Thanks for the link; I’ve enjoyed a bunch of your posts! In fact, you’ll notice your RSS feed over on the right . . .

  2. Robert Reddig says:

    Thanks for the post–I had not seen the article. Put LBD up there with “horrible neurologic diseases.”

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