Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 16:31 UK
Living life with multiple sclerosis

JK Rowling speaks about her mother's death from MS in a rare interview

Best-selling author JK Rowling has spoken of her regret that she never told her mother about her world-famous creation, Harry Potter.

She began work on her tales of the apprentice wizard six months before her mother Anne, who had multiple sclerosis, died at the age of 45.

Rowling's comments came in a BBC Scotland programme about the degenerative disease.

The writer expressed frustration about a lack of funding for MS research.

Recalling her mother, the Edinburgh-based author said: "I started writing Harry six months before she died. That's obviously a real regret, because I never told her I was even writing it.

"She never knew anything about Harry Potter at all."


Speaking of her pain at her mother's gradual decline before her death in 1990, Rowling said: "When I left home, she was walking unaided. By the time I graduated, she was in a wheelchair and in the house she needed a walking frame.

"It was awful to watch."

Rowling, whose Harry Potter novels have been transformed into a globally successful film series, said her mother had shown marked signs of the illness for six or seven years before she was diagnosed.

A numbness in her right arm had spread over half her torso in a year.

In 2006, multi-millionaire Rowling made a major cash donation towards a multiple sclerosis research centre at Edinburgh University to help find a cure.

She has now hit out at a perceived general lack of funding for, and interest in the condition, which affects about one in every 500 people in Scotland.

"It's a Cinderella of illnesses, you hear this all the time, because it's under-funded, because it's ignored," she said.

"I think it's possibly common to a lot of neurological conditions. It just seems to be an area that has not seemed very sexy for funding."

Rowling, patron of the Multiple Sclerosis Society Scotland, added: "People get diagnosed and sent home. It's a frustration to those of us whose family members do have MS that so little is being done, because it is a life-altering condition and a lot can be done now, so why isn't that happening?"

Scotland's Hidden Epidemic: The truth about MS, will be broadcast on Wednesday 23 July, on BBC One Scotland at 2245 BST.


Estimates by national MS charities

Country Number of people with MS Prevalence (people with MS per 100,000)
UK 85,000 143.8
Sweden 12,000 134.8
Ireland 4,500 125.0
Denmark 6,000 112.0
Canada 35,000 111.0
Iceland 285 105.1
Germany 110,000 99.0
Finland 5,000 98.0
Czech Republic 10,000 97.1
Netherlands 15,000 94.9
Luxembourg 400 94.1
USA 250,000 91.7
Italy 50,000 88.2
Belgium 8,900 87.5
Norway 3,800 86.4
Austria 7,000 86.4
France 50,000 84.9
New Zealand 3,000 81.3
Israel 4,500 80.4
Poland 30,000 77.1
Spain 30,000 76.7
Hungary 6,600 65.0
Australia 12,000 63.8
Estonia 725 51.0
Portugal 5,000 50.5
Cyprus 350 46.7
Greece 5,000 46.7
Turkey 30,000 46.4
Bulgaria 3,200 39.3
Romania 7,500 33.4
Argentina 5,000 13.6
Mexico 8,000 8.1
Libya 290 5.9
Brazil 7,000 4.0
Japan 5,000 4.0
South Africa 1,500 3.5
Hong Kong 50 0.9
Taiwan 175 0.8
Zimbabwe 50 0.5

'I'm just another Scot with MS'
19 Jul 08 |  Scotland
Rowling gives boost to MS centre
19 Apr 06 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific