Paediatricians apologise but they don’t identify the “muppet” who came up with title for today’s conference | 18 May 2017

May 18, 2017

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Words by Tony Britton

The apology was immediate and obviously sincere – but it failed to answer two key questions: who was the “muppet” who designed the programme (to the left) for today's paediatric study day in Exeter and what did it say about the judgement of the eminent clinicians who signed up to speak at and attend the event?

A barrage of complaints about the title broke out yesterday as soon as details of the study day were circulated on the internet and social media.

Typical of the complaints was this one from MEA medical adviser Dr Charles Shepherd, who came late to the controversy yesterday evening. He emailed South West Paediatric Club, who organised the study day, first thing this morning.

Dr Shepherd wrote:

Having seen the details of your study day – with the title A Day with the MUPP(ET)S – on the internet, a number of our members are contacting The ME Association to say that they find the title, which I assume was used to create interest and amusement, to be unprofessional and insulting to children with unexplained medical symptoms, as well as to children and adolescents with ME/CFS, which is one of the subjects being covered.

As I am sure you are aware, the dictionary definition of a MUPPET is quite derogatory: An alternative term for an idiot or moron. Usually used in the UK to describe someone who is incompetent or gormless.

So I have to agree that this is a highly inappropriate and disrespectful title to use for a study day covering what is a very sensitive medical subject.

Using the term MUPPET clearly implies to the patient community that these sort of symptoms are being trivialised and even laughed at by the medical profession.

I hope you will accept that a serious error of judgement has been made here and that an apology is therefore called for.

Soon after, the following statement appeared on the club's website:

“The South West Paediatric Club is extremely sorry for the offence caused by the original title we gave our conference on medically unexplained conditions today.

“This was wholly unintentional and something we very much regret. As an organisation deeply passionate about improving paediatric care, we wish to make it absolutely clear that this was in no way our description or view of the children we are proud to care for, nor our view of the complex and serious subject of medically unexplained symptoms which we have gathered together today to discuss.

“The reference in the title was aimed light-heartedly at ourselves as doctors and the challenges we often face trying to successfully treat medically unexplained conditions. It was certainly not a reference to our patients. We realise that our original title was an error of judgement for which the club takes full responsibility and we have removed all reference to it in today's proceedings and it is being removed from our website.

“The conference being held today is being attended by more than 100 paediatricians from across the `South West and beyond and our sole aim is to learn more about this challenging area and share best practice. We are dedicated to improving the health, wellbeing and lives of our patients and we will continue to work tirelessly to improve the standard of paediatric care for children across the South West and further afeild.”

5 thoughts on “Paediatricians apologise but they don’t identify the “muppet” who came up with title for today’s conference | 18 May 2017”

  1. There is nothing redeeming about either their apology or their intentions in the first place.
    100 paediatricians have attended a ‘muppet’ conference… is this in the best interests of the children…. who are their patients?

  2. When is this dreadful situation with M.E. going to end? There is a wealth of research that has been undertaken all around the world that has proved the physicality of this appalling illness (it is not ‘medically-unexplained’) and yet we as sufferers have to constantly be insulted, ridiculed and humiliated. Everyday is a hard battle to exist and we then have to carry a crushing burden as we face a hostile and doubting medical/public environment – built out of ignorance. We know that we have an illness the equivalent of being a modern day leper, where there is no treatment, no relief, and seemingly no justice – an illness that causes us to be blamed and shamed. Over three decades gone by and yet some days it is like the 1980’s all over again.

  3. Dear all, I would like to say how very sorry I am that this has happened. Having had many emails today I realise that many people have been very upset by the title of the meeting and I know that the officers have apologised although I am aware that this is not enough for some of you. However I would also like you to know that I have not been president of this club for two years as I retired and am now working part time. The website has not been updated and until today I was not aware of this. Please could you not address any further emails to me. I will be forwarding all emails received to the ME association tomorrow and have forwarded all emails also to the officers of the club for them to respond. Dr Stella Imong

  4. Their apology about the ridiculous title completely misses the additional, and arguably even more important point, namely that of the woefully wrong and inaccurate inclusion of ME, or CFS as they would call it, under the category of Medically Unexplained Symptoms. That any clinician, and yes, here am addressing Esther Crawley, can choose to ignore the vast and ever increasing body of international biomedical evidence, and persist in promoting an outdated and frankly libellous model of an extremely serious illness, is appalling. Those of us who have had ME for the best part of our whole lives despair that this situation just goes on. Young people and their families who are yet to be exposed to all this – well heaven help them.

  5. The use of that acronym was wrong on so many levels. ME patients have suffered stigmatisation and lack of respect and validation for decades. This is the latest example of horrible prejudice from within the medical profession.

    I hope that the M E Association will assert all its influence regarding these worrying educational conferences that lump ME in to the term MUS, that is utterly ridiculous in relation to the very debilitating illness that ME is proven to be.

    I think it is now the time for M E Association to stand up for ME patients, take a stand against all that is wrong in the CMRC and leave it behind. I also think that Action for ME should do the same.

    A new collaboration with ME charities and proper biomedical research would be a wise choice, in my opinion. A complete break away from the BPS influence and proponents is a must, in my opinion.

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