Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

Chief Justice John Roberts Has Seizure

10 Questions and Answers on Roberts' Seizure
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 31, 2007 -- U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has left a Maine hospital after having a seizure yesterday afternoon at his Maine vacation home.

According to media reports, doctors said Roberts, 52, had a "benign idiopathic seizure," meaning that they couldn't find a reason for the seizure, which happened after Roberts had gotten off a boat at a dock near his summer home on Maine's Hupper Island.

Roberts fell on the dock and sustained scrapes. He was taken by boat to the mainland and was reportedly conscious and alert when he was transferred to an ambulance and taken to the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine.

At the medical center, Roberts got a "thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern," Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told reporters.

Roberts reportedly had had a seizure in 1993. In 2001, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his health was "excellent," according to the Associated Press.

WebMD spoke with Jacqueline French, MD, about Roberts' seizures. French is a professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. She's not one of Roberts' doctors and hasn't seen his medical records.

What is a "benign idiopathic seizure"?

There is no such thing as a category of seizure called "benign." A seizure is a seizure. It's not a benign thing to have a seizure. I think what they're trying to get across with that word is that there is not an underlying cause that's alarming. He hasn't been discovered to have an infection or a brain tumor or anything along those lines. But other than that, there is no "benign."

The other thing is that they are being very careful to call it a seizure but in fact -- and obviously it was a seizure -- but the fact that he has had two seizures without cause -- one in 1993 and the most recent one -- actually puts him in the category of epilepsy because the only definition of the word "epilepsy" is more than one unprovoked seizure. So once you've had two unprovoked seizures, you in fact have epilepsy. And the reason that we use that term is because the likelihood of having a third once you've had two is more than 50%.

Now, when that third [seizure] would occur is very unclear, and obviously it has been a very long time since his first seizure, at least as far as we know. So it could be a very long time -- if he was going to have a third [seizure] -- before he would have a third [seizure]. But for most people that would be the point at which you would consider trying to prevent a third by giving some kind of mild treatment.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix