We demand changes to ‘Observer’ article

November 29, 2020


The ME Association's medical adviser, Dr Charles Shepherd, has this evening written to the Editor of ‘The Observer' and the newspaper's Readers Letters editor asking for an immediate correction to an article that appeared in the newspaper today.

Here's the full text of his letter:

Dear Editors,

Re: https://www.theguardian.com/…/eleanor-morgan-is-still…

The article on Long COVID by Eleanor Morgan contains factual inaccuracies about factors that (a) predispose a person to developing ME/CFS and (b) perpetuate ME/CFS.

I refer, in particular, to the following paragraph:

“Exploring the emotional component is integral, because CFS is often informed by a person’s underlying mental health and past experiences. Fatigue is compounded by catastrophic thinking. Patience, empathy and validation, then, are key to any successful care pathway, particularly in light of the well-established link between CFS and those who have experienced childhood trauma. The precise underpinnings of this link are not fully understood, but it’s clear.”

There is no solid research evidence to substantiate claims that:

  1. CFS is often informed by a person’s underlying mental health and past experiences.
  2. Fatigue is compounded by catastrophic thinking.
  3. There is a well-established link between CFS and those who have experienced childhood trauma.

All three inaccuracies require a factual correction as soon as possible.

I would suggest that the author also has a look at the new NICE guideline on ME/CFS: https://www.nice.org.uk/…/GID…/documents/draft-guideline

And whilst appreciating that Dr Tomlinson is expressing an opinion, there is again no evidence to show that the development of either ME/CFS or Long COVID are ‘rooted in trauma'.

As a doctor with personal experience of developing a severe post viral fatigue syndrome following a chickenpox encephalitis infection I had a very happy childhood with no history of childhood trauma, or any other trauma.

Like everyone else with ME/CFS, and Long-COVID, I failed to recover from viral infection and do not want to be told that it was caused by having a traumatic childhood.

Your sincerely

Dr Charles Shepherd Hon Medical Adviser, ME Association

Research reference relating to childhood adversity and ME/CFS: https://meassociation.org.uk/…/MEA-Summary-Review…

The ME Association

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