MEA response to Prof Blakemore’s piece in ‘The Times’

‘Disease of the brain, not the mind, has no stigma’ – Professor Colin Blakemore, The Times, 2 August 2011

INTENDED FOR PUBLICATION

Sir

Professor Colin Blakemore’s commentary on the controversies surrounding ME/CFS research makes some valid points about the overlap in pathological mechanisms causing neurological and mental illness.

Having worked in hospital psychiatry I know that mental illness can be just as devastating as having a neurological illness. So Colin Blakemore is correct – there is no reason why people with mental illness should still be experiencing stigmatisation and discrimination when it comes to all aspects of their daily life.

As a doctor who was involved with lobbying Colin Blakemore and the Medical Research Council (MRC) for funding for biomedical research into the cause and treatment of ME/CFS I believe this was done in a constructive manner and had nothing to do with stigmatising psychiatric illness. People with ME/CFS had a genuine grievance when it came to lack of government funding for biomedical research.

It was therefore surprising to find no mention of the MRC acknowledgment that a problem of research bias did exist. As a result, the MRC set up an expert group on ME/CFS research to look specifically at the biomedical research priorities. A list of immediate MRC research priorities was published at the start of this year, along with £1.5 million of ring-fenced funding. The MRC is now assessing the research applications.

Dr Charles Shepherd

Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association
Member of the MRC Expert Group on ME/CFS Research

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