Research review | CFS and the challenge of divergent perspectives in guideline development | 17 November 2012

From the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 17 November 2012

Unity of opposites? Chronic fatigue syndrome and the challenge of divergent perspectives in guideline development

Charlotte Smith, Simon Wessely
Department of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Weston Education Centre, London, UK

Abstract

Guideline development by its nature is a process and method of integration and synthesis of information, be it originating from research, evidence-based medicine, clinical findings, patient experience and/or individual narratives of an illness or disease.

In the majority of cases, it can be assumed that this information and these ideas are travelling in the same direction; however, it is possible that the objective and subjective cannot be synthesised, and appear mutually contradictory.

In this commentary, an example of where this might be the case has been analysed: a report published by the Scottish Public Health Network, a Health Care Needs Assessment of Services for people living with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

It appears from reflection and analysis of this document that this process may indeed have gone awry. We propose that, if followed, this document would lead to the adoption of dangerous diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, as well as preventing patients from making informed decisions about treatment options, and discouraging clinicians from following evidence-based medicine and recommending proven treatments for ME/CFS, because of potential implications for future commissioning.

This commentary seeks to highlight some of the problems, contradictions and unintended consequences of a divergence between patient perspectives and evidence-based medicine despite probably sharing the same aim, that of improving patient care and striving for better understanding and better treatments for disease.

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