(For debate in the House of Lords, Thursday 22 January 2004)
A CONSIDERATION OF THE ROLE OF MEMBERS OF THE “WESSELY SCHOOL” IN THE PERCEPTION OF
MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS (ME) IN THE UK
Background Briefing for the House of Commons Select Health Committee
Is it the case, as demonstrated in a TV documentary, that multi-national corporations and not governments now control the world? Are powerful and influential psychiatrists who work within the Mental Health Movement linked to the multi-national corporations that now dominate and control medical and research institutions and whose life-blood is profit? (Politics isn’t working: the End of Politics. Cambridge academic Noreena Hertz presented evidence that multi-national corporations are taking the place of elected governments. ITV Channel 4, 13th May 2001)
To the detriment of the sick, the deciding factor governing policies on medical research and on the management and treatment of patients is increasingly determined not by medical need but by economic considerations.
Evidence is presented in this document to show that
· In the UK, patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS), particularly children, have suffered gross and barbaric abuse and persistent denigration as a consequence of the beliefs of certain psychiatrists who are attempting to control the national agenda for this complex and severe neuro-immunological disorder
· These psychiatrists are shown to be clearly in breach of the first tenet of medicine --- first do no harm--- in that by their words and deeds they have wreaked havoc in the lives of ME/CFS patients and their families by their arrogant pursuit of a psychiatric construct of the disorder which ignores the abundant clinical and scientific evidence (widely presented in the international medical and scientific literature) of the organic nature of ME/CFS
· There have been persistent and frequently covert attempts by these psychiatrists to subvert the international classification of this disorder, with destructive consequences for those affected
· To the serious disadvantage of patients, these psychiatrists have propagated untruths and falsehoods about the disorder to the medical, legal, insurance and media communities, as well as to Government Ministers and to Members of Parliament, resulting in the withdrawal and erosion of both social and financial support
· Influenced by these psychiatrists, Government bodies such as the Medical Research Council have continued to propagate the same falsehoods with the result that patients are left without any hope of understanding or of health service provision or delivery. As a consequence, Government funding into the biomedical aspects of the disorder is non-existent
· This coterie of psychiatrists has proven affiliations with corporate industry and has insidiously infiltrated all the major institutions, directing funding for research into an exclusively psychiatric model of the disorder, focusing on “management strategies” involving psychiatric techniques, even though such techniques have been shown to be at best of no lasting value and at worst to be harmful to patients with ME/CFS
· The same psychiatric model has been extended by these psychiatrists to a number of other disorders including Gulf War Syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple chemical sensitivity and chronic low-dose organo-phosphate poisoning, leaving many other people without the help and support they so urgently need.
The matter for scrutiny by the Select Committee on Health concerns myalgic encephalomyelititis (ME) and is straightforward:
(i) is the Department of Health’s current and proposed policy on the management of patients with ME as provided and promoted by psychiatrists of the “Wessely School” (see below) harmful to patients and
(ii) are such patients being abused as a consequence of scientific misconduct?
ME has been formally classified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as a neurological disorder since 1969, but psychiatrist Simon Wessely advises Government that the disorder does not exist other than as an “aberrant belief” that one has a disorder called ME. He refers to “chronic fatigue syndrome” (CFS) and asserts that CFS is a somatoform (psychiatric) disorder in which patients produce physical symptoms as a means of expressing emotional distress.
This is at variance with the WHO classification of the disorder: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is listed in the ICD as a term by which ME is also known and according to the ICD, the two terms are synonymous, thus “CFS” does not represent a psychiatric disorder even though Wessely School psychiatrists assert that it does.
Of potential significance is the fact that American researchers have demonstrated that in ME/CFS, a particular pathway in the body which is affected by viruses can also be affected by chemicals and it is known that ME/CFS can be either virally or chemically induced (Interferon-induced proteins are elevated in blood samples of patients with chemically or virally induced chronic fatigue syndrome. Vojdani A; Lapp CW. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol 1999:21: (2):175-202)
For at least a decade, questions about possible scientific misconduct and flawed methodology by Dr (now Professor) Wessely and his group of co-psychiatrists have been raised and published in international medical journals but it is only relatively recently that his long-time involvement as medical adviser to commercial bodies having a vested interest in his publications on ME has been exposed (see below).
There is no question that many millions of pounds sterling are at stake and that the vested interest groups for whom these psychiatrists act as medical advisers would like to prevent insurance cover for ME patients (those with a psychiatric label are denied medical insurance cover); prevent disability payments to them; prevent successful liability lawsuits and maintain the supremacy of their industries (see below).
Increasingly, it is now “policy-makers” and Government advisers, not experienced clinicians, who determine how a disorder is classified and managed in the NHS: the determination of an illness classification and the provision of policy-driven “management” is a very profitable business.
The situation is admirably set out in a letter dated 29th December 2003 to the e-British Medical Journal from Angela Kennedy, Social Science Lecturer at the Open University:
“I suspect that psychiatry, if it is not careful, will eventually become most ridiculed over its adherence to one theme: that of ‘somatization’. Presently, sufferers of Myalgic Encephalitis (sic) (also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) are increasingly subject to medical negligence or even abuse because the huge body of international bio-medical evidence is ignored, especially in Britain, in favour of an unfortunately incomprehensible, incoherent and empirically inadequate theory.
“The categorization of an illness as being psychosomatic also means a further categorisation of an individual as ‘deviant’ rather than ‘ill’, so that they are denied sympathy, support, and even benefits they are entitled to. Categorised as ‘deviant’, the ill then suffer increasing social exclusion and material inequalities.
“The main problem with somatization theories is that they cannot be either proven or disproven and therefore are not very ‘scientific’ at all.
“In relation to ME/CFS at least, flawed, unsubstantiated theories have been uncritically adopted and treated as ‘fact’, even against the already substantial (and substantiated) body of bio-medical evidence which continues to grow.
“The material effects of such sloppy ‘science’ have had two main consequences for ME sufferers: firstly, the medical impairments of the illness have often been ignored and left untreated, and many sufferers therefore become severely disabled, their physical health absolutely devastated and their chances of a restoration to good health uncertain at best. Secondly, children in particular end up victims of institutional abuse (though this can happen to adults too). In the case of children, they may be forcibly removed from their concerned parents and subjected to draconian ‘treatments’ that could, quite easily, be termed abuse.
“The capacity for abuse of institutional power appears to have increased enormously, and this is becoming most evident in the fields of health care and particularly psychiatry. How such problems are addressed will determine the future of such disciplines, as far-reaching demands for justice from those who are faced with or survive such institutional abuse are inevitable, and this will lead to a critical review of medical practice, both from other disciplines, and society at large”.
The full document can be read at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MEND-UK/files/Mental Health 2.doc