ME sufferers have found enemy in Wessely
On the 6 October 2003, The Scotsman newspaper published an article about psychiatrist Simon Wessely written by Dr. Margaret Cook, former wife of Robin Cook, a UK Cabinet Minister now deceased. Margaret Cook was previously a Hospital Consultant. At the time that this article was published, The Scotsman was then owned by the Barclay brothers - Sir Frederick Barclay has ME/CFS.

Wessely doesn't like being exposed to the public gaze with the facts and does his best to control what is written about him. People are frightened of Simon Wessely. Psychiatrists in the field who consider his treatments of ME/CFS patients to be a dangerous cruel nonsense and that are based purely on his most lucrative belief system that ME does not exist, as stated at the Eliot Slater Memorial lecture, very rarely speak up for fear of compromising their careers. "He has the ear of the government" they mutter, "he is on contract with the Ministry of Defence and all that entails."

Wessely didn't like this article. So much so that he threw his weight about all over The Scotsman and had it removed from the archives of the newspaper. The previous URL for this piece, courtesy of Wessely, no longer works as a direct link to the article.

It therefore gives One Click great pleasure to act as the archivist in this instance and republish this stellar article once more.

So appropriate with The Gibson ME/CFS 'Inquiry' to start next Tuesday..

The One Click Group

Source: The Scotsman
Date: October 6, 2003

[Doctor's notes]

ME sufferers have found enemy in Wessely - so they need friends

By Margaret Cook

THIS week at the Scottish Parliament Visitors’ Centre, I spoke to a cross-party group of MSPs on ME - myalgic encephalomyelitis. I am still amazed at how I came to be doing such an adventurous thing, for it is a topic on which I have minimal expertise or knowledge.

I am one of those people who tend to leap in at the deep end rather than reflecting on the brink, so I should have considered how improbable it was that a sufficient number of MSPs would have an interest in the low-profile illness ME to make up a group. On arrival, I found that most of my audience were either sufferers themselves, or carers of sufferers.

Now if there is anyone likely to have a thorough knowledge of a medical condition, it is someone who has found the Establishment uninterested and even sceptical about their problem. Think of Gulf War Syndrome, think of CJD and its association with BSE. The place where ME patients have come up against a brick wall is the Benefits System, and this is why they were interested, nay pressing, in inviting me to come along, as I have a passing acquaintance with that system.

There has been widespread scepticism among doctors as to whether ME exists at all. It has been labelled derogatorily as "yuppie flu"; and some patients have been called malingerers, hypochondriacs and worse when applying for state benefits.

If I found some of my audience identifying me with all the negative attitudes they had encountered and expressing themselves rather warmly, who am I to blame them?

They are particularly resistant to the view, embedded in current medical thinking, that ME is predominantly or partly a mental health problem. Now this is not an easy conundrum to disentangle, because it is quite common for people with chronic disabling conditions to become clinically depressed.

Simply treating for depression will not necessarily address the primary issue. And though there are no established diagnostic markers, it is not by any means the only condition which needs to be diagnosed on the basis of the history.

I’ve said before in this column that the most important thing I have learned in a lifetime of medical practice, is that you should LISTEN to what the patient tells you. So, following my own advice, and feeling somewhat humbled, when they asked if I needed to know more about ME, where would I go? I replied that I could do worse than coming to this particular group. That raised me in their estimation.

But I picked up a name, the significance of which did not strike me until afterwards. Simon Wessely, professor of epidemiology and liaison psychiatry at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, London. Ah, what a Big Cheese he sounds.

It seems that he has been central to the psychiatric perspective that ME does not exist at all, and that the related "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" is a mental condition best managed by a psychiatric therapeutic approach.

He has downplayed the need for research into diagnostic markers for the condition(s), and such is his influence that no state funding is forthcoming to support any other research than his own. For a mystery condition, this is closing down the portals and reducing the chance of the broad, open
perspective needed to break through the barriers of prejudice and ignorance.

After I left the meeting, that name echoed in my subconscious mind, until a day or so later, I suddenly remembered where I had met it before.

In May 2003, a revolutionary issue of the BMJ challenged the age-old association between doctors and their lavishly-generous sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies. The attack was bold, and very shocking to those who had not thought of how the profession prostitutes itself for funding, and how both treatment and research are distorted as a result.
Well done, the editor, said some of us. But not all.

One of the foremost who objected to the challenge to our collective integrity was the aforementioned Professor Simon Wessely, who (using a reductio ad absurdum argument), refused to countenance the possibility of his judgment being swayed by any such paymaster.

He wrote: "It is time we doctors grew up." He no doubt subscribes to the principle of the double-blind, randomised clinical trial, yet is himself blind to the possibility that doctors can be biased by that most powerful motivator, money.

You can tell from every sentence of his letter that he is used to dictating principles and having everyone in his orbit humbly accept his gospel. If I needed persuading that the ME community merited my support, this letter and its author would convince me. When you have enemies like him, you need a powerful lot of friends.

(c) 2003 The Scotsman