Daily Mail on today’s big ME story, 29 July 2011

July 29, 2011


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.’

3 thoughts on “Daily Mail on today’s big ME story, 29 July 2011”

  1. Well done again, Dr. Shepherd. Boy, you’ve been busy today. Thank you.

    The Mail does allow comments.

  2. Death threats are not justifiable and are abhorrent! .however I have several issues about psychiatrist’s researchers or doctors stopping people protesting through legitimate means .If medicine is to be ethical or democratic then people need to be able to disagree, voice an opinion to the appropriate complaints bodies or government department such as letters or emails to the BMJ, engage in discussion or argue their case. If this is not allowed democracy and human rights will be compromised only applied to those who are seen as deserving of them. This I feel is not the democratic example of ethics in medicine that the UK would wish to promote to the rest of the world. ME is seen as illness beliefs or psychological caused by childhood abuse or trauma which points to the fact that it is seen as psychological with no other explanation?

    It is worth noting that HIV or Aids was also seen as a psychological or not a disease caused by biological factors such as a virus. Published in the in 1984 The Journal of Psychohistory by Casper. SCHMIDT as The Group-Fantasy Origins of AIDS it was proposed that Aids or HIV was epidemic hysteria; were groups of people are subconsciously acting out social conflicts in public. It took many people who did not believe this to be the case or other explanations given, not just gay men, but heterosexuals, haemophiliacs and others protesting through the media or in the streets to get research into HIV a virus, respect and a cure… Though some might disagree with the methods or tactics used to gain recognition at the time, I doubt doctor’s or researchers would now claim that AIDS patents were wrong in claiming their disease to be a real disease caused by an unidentified virus and not a psychological one which was put forwards as an explanation at the time. Researchers are not now condemning these people in the same way AS they are now condemning ME CFS patients for voicing an opinion or complaint.

    As long as it does not threaten life or intimidate with violence complaints by their very nature will disagree or seek to argue sometimes forcefully with the opinions of those who have ultimate control over any illness. Also many people will question why XMRV being seen as not being the cause of ME is somehow justification for proving ME to be psychological disorder. Has the motives to disprove ME been the same as disproving XMRV to push this disease into only a psychiatric diagnosis or explanation? This is only my own opinion.

  3. I suspect that as so many sources of ‘Authority’ are discredited, Science is being seen as a vital tool in the battle for hearts and minds. Increasingly it is used to underpin social policy and there has been a concerted effort to silence dissent.
    Science is portrayed as somehow neutral, as standing above and apart from the squalor of politics or the naked accumulation of wealth. Maybe it was, once, but I doubt it. Today to dissent is to be a heretic, and to be treated much as the Church has always treated the turbulent.
    What should we make of this article in the same week as the declaration that 70% of claimants are fit for work and that science reporting is poor because it considers the views of non-scientists on a par with that of scientists.
    As a person with ‘ME’ I just see more of the same BS that has plagued us for 20yrs.

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