From the Daily Mail, 29 July 2011
Scientists investigating ME get ‘death threats’ for investigating psychological causes
Scientists researching the causes of chronic fatigue claim to have received violent threats for investigating the possibility that the disease is caused psychologically.
Chronic fatigue, or ME, affects around 250,000 people in the UK, but its causes are currently unknown.
Professor Simon Wessely, who is investigating the origins of the disease, claims to have received both direct intimidation such as death threats and menacing phone calls, and indirect threats via King’s College London, where he works.
He told Radio 4’s Today programme that the abuse came from those who do not want to see ME labelled as a psychological disorder.
Myra McClure, a researcher at Imperial College London, has also come under attack.
‘It really was quite staggeringly shocking,’ she said, ‘and this was all from patients who seemed to think that I had some vested interest in not finding this virus.’
Professor McClure says she will no longer do research into the causes of ME.
Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, also condemned the attacks, but said that ME sufferers’ anger was understandable.
He said: ‘This sort of personal intimidation is I believe completely unacceptable – and it is also counter-productive, because it doesn’t stop the type of research going on and it puts good researchers off, there is no doubt about that.
‘I think you need to put this into the context of the fact that we have about 250,000 people with this illness. A very, very tiny minority of these people are involved in this sort of behaviour.’
‘But what people do however have a justifiable complaint about is that there has been very little, or almost nil, Government-funded research into the biomedical aspect of this illness.
‘Yes, there may be a psychological input to the illness in some people but the anger, the frustration, is the fact that all this effort, all this Government funding, has been going just to the psychological side.’