‘Unhelpful therapies anger ME sufferers’, letter in the Financial Times

April 5, 2008

This letter from Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to The ME Association, appeared on the FT letters pages today.

Sir, Imagine developing a severe disabling neurological illness that may be dismissed by your doctor as being “all in the mind” or even non-existent (“If it’s in the mind, it’s still the real thing”, Life & Arts, March 22/23); then discovering that no government research funding is being directed at finding the underlying physical cause of this illness. 

Finally, imagine being told that cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise therapy – the two basic treatments recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – were found by many people to be unhelpful, or even made their illness worse, in a report produced by the UK government's chief medical officer.

This is why people with myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome feel so angry. It has nothing to do with denigrating illnesses normally regarded as being psychiatric or psychological – they are just as real and disabling as those that are normally regarded as physical and there is no dispute that mind and body can interact. I suspect that if Margaret McCartney ever has the misfortune to develop ME/CFS she might start to agree with some of the very valid points patients are making.

Charles Shepherd, Chalford Hill, Gloucs GL6 8EH

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