My title is a quote from Cicero concerning the immortality of the soul, not an exhortation to suicide. As usual I have a new twist on an old saying.
For all the ink that has been spilled in disputes over the organic nature of ME/CFS, over a period of half a century, there has been one major oversight -- autopsies of deceased sufferers. (If you don't believe that time span, check the date of the Royal Free Hospital outbreak in London.) I'm not claiming these have never been done, only that a systematic approach has been absent, if not actually thwarted. From Dr. Ramsey's 1978 review we learn that some patients caught in that outbreak never recovered.
Even without making any assumptions about increased mortality connected with morbidity one can consult standard mortality tables to see that there must have been many opportunities to make detailed searches for evidence of pathology. (I know one U.S. patient was hit by a truck while crossing the street on an electric scooter, which, while unfortunate for the individual, does eliminate confounding problems introduced by a long, slow decline with complications.) Anecdotal evidence suggests that automobile accidents are a particular hazard for patients who have not accepted the limitations of the disease. Fatigue and cognitive impairment are well-known major contributors to accidents.
At this point, we may expect to hear from adherents of various psychosocial models that this is simply wasting money on what they know to be a functional psychological illness. At present it is getting hard to find physicians who will confidently assert that even bipolar illness or schizophrenia lack an organic component, so I'm going to make a radical proposal: Autopsy all those who die with presumed mental illness. The cost of treatment of these, to say nothing of lost productivity, is out of sight. The effectiveness of present treatment is very limited. Discovering a means of preventing or effectively treating any such illness would be a major long-term saving for health care.
Why has this not been addressed? Because most major healthcare systems can spend less if a disease is classified as mental. (As your First Sergeant might say, "That sounds like a personal problem.") Where is this not true? Norway is one example. In that country treatment for mental illness is taken seriously. You seldom meet the mentally ill living/dying on the streets of Oslo. Secondly, Norwegians can't expect to shift the costs of mental illness to Swedes or Danes; no matter how an illness is classified they know Norwegians will be paying for treatment. Treating normal organic diseases in hospitalized patients with mental illness is more expensive than treating patients who have the organic disease alone.
Now do you understand why a breakthrough in treatment of CFS took place in Norway?
Why has the simple and obvious step I'm proposing for research on this disease never been done here?
Ne mors quidem est malum
Blog entry posted by anciendaze, Jan 18, 2012.