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Dealing with Wessely's media attacks: what you should know

Discussion in 'General ME/CFS News' started by Annikki, Aug 28, 2011.

  1. Annikki

    Annikki

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    Note: there has a been a correction to this article. Michael Sharpe of the Wessely school worked for UNUM. Simon Wessely does not; he works or worked for another insurance multinational called PRISMA. I don't know if Wessely is still currently in their employ.

    I think the basis for Wessely's media campaign has its roots in deeper soil than just Wessely's commitment to an ideology. Remember, this is about money more than genuine medical debate. Wessely and his peers at Kings College are awash in disability insurance money.

    Michael Sharpe, member of the Wessely school, is/was involved with the multinational disability insurance company UNUM. (Sorry; the article I'm looking at is dated for 2002. I don't have current information) UNUM has much to gain by having us all reclassified as crackpots. So does PRISMA I imagine. The odd thing is that when looking at facts about the class action lawsuit which was made against UNUM or UNUM Provident as it used to be called, I see UNUM customers go through the same sort of attacks on the legitimacy of their symptoms. The goal of UNUM seems to be reducing the number of people it has to cover. Other authors have attributed Wessely school corporate ties to disability insurance corporations as motivating their psychiatric relabeling of ME/CFS.

    The benefit to the disability insurance companies involved would be reducing the number of people eligible for disability insurance. The documented activities of UNUM in regard to its customers would support that hypothesis. UNUM was also investigated for encouraging its customers in the U.S. to apply for Social Security Disability. It is illegal in the U.S. for a private disability insurance company to encourage customers to apply for government benefits. Such activities indicate UNUM doesn't want to have to pay to fully cover its customers. A shift in the official labeling of neurological disorders to psychiatric may help with such a goal. Psychiatric disorders can be "treated" and the person sent back to work. Someone with a neurological condition would not likely be expected to return to work due to genuine physical limitation.



    All these facts you already know. What you may not know is what I'm going to share here. Thankfully I'm very familiar with public relations tactics. At the end of this article I'll share some great links to which share more about these topics.

    We complain about how many media outlets give Wessely a chance to spew lies and rightfully so. It seems this August he has been on overdrive. Why should the Wessely school be so active in advocating for their agenda over using CBT in place of medicine for CFS/ME this month?

    In the business world, when corporate misconduct happens, the guilty business will use the media to paint (or twist) reality in a light which make it looks good. For example, after BP spills a lot of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and then it makes a bunch of commercials showing BP workers helping families in New Orleans. It will do this while it is also appealing the US government to allow it to stop paying to assist those families. Using media is one way that opinions can be forged to benefit a company, even in the face of evidence to contrary. Look up the term "greenwashing" for a start.

    One thing I always keep in mind when looking at Wessely is that he is a corporate officer at PRISMAand his colleague Michael Sharpe works for UNUM. In dismantling his arguments I'm going to not just look at medical research, but assume there are profit motivations involved too. Both UNUM and PRISMA stand to gain through taking ME off the list of recognized neurological disorders.

    Maybe there is a "secondary gain" for the Wessely school in writing now so much about CBT. You could maybe see this as a strategy taken to further their aims in the face of progress made in research on CFS/ME.

    This would not just include XMRV research but research by Dr. Light. My thoughts are that Wessely is writing to ensure that opinions regress even in the face of this progress.

    Right now Wessely is trying to play the "victim." So Wessely has had threats made at him. No celebrity is exempt from this sort of thing, from rock stars to actors. You don't need to be busy forcing ME patients to exercise to get strange stuff like this. He should be lucky that the majority of us appreciate what suffering is and have a better mind than wish it with no regard.

    At least that is the way I feel. For me, suffering makes me appreciate kindness. Even at my angriest, I don't find myself wishing for more death and misery- even on those who've caused it for me or the people I care about. Surely people have a right to feel afraid of Wessely and to wish themselves to not be hurt by his work. Maybe some people don't know the right way to get free from the abuse his work has led to. Fear tends to make us say things we don't otherwise. Still, people in the public eye get threats and stalkers and more. It would be naive for Wessely to take it so personally. In a way, that he fears these threats being carried out is an admission he thinks someone would have the motivation to actually carry out violence.

    The real issue I see here I think is Wessely is using these threats to convey himself as a victim and make us seem like the perpetrators. It also incidentally gives him a reason to write when there is no good reason for him to pick up a pen (like there ever is).


    I've been thinking hard about why these articles are coming out now. I wonder if it is because major strides in ME and neurological disease research are being made. Wessely and his fellow Wessely school members like Michael Sharpe, who has ties to UNUM must be very unhappy about this.

    Therefore, I thought it would be worth taking a good look at UNUM and look at their history in using public relations, media and lobbying. I wanted to know the way this company handles things, what PR firms and lobbying firms they use and maybe also see if they have ties to media companies as well. I'll share what I've found so far.

    Thanks to website called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting I learned UNUM shares members of its board of directors with the board of directors of ABC/Disney.

    http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2870

    Most media scholars consider connections like these as anathemas to getting out alternative points of view, like say the idea that ME is a recognized medical condition by the WHO, into the mass media.

    From what I read about UNUM, I consistently see bold, negative strategies taken to assist it in bilking customers. There were so many complaints against UNUM, a class action lawsuit was launched against them. I can't believe what I found on the website for the lawyers who fought for patients against UNUM about the lawsuit and how UNUM handled it:

    http://unumprovidentclassaction.net/

    I also did some reading on the Consumer Affairs website about the UNUM class action lawsuit. On this website are very many UNUM customer horror stories. What I keep thinking when reading those stories from UNUM policy holders is how "the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree." Calling patient's crazy, and denying physical symptoms aren't just reserved for ME/CFS patients- this is treatment UNUM policy holders receive too.
    :eek:.

    I really start thinking of that fruit and tree proverb when reading this story about a woman with a back and neck injury being forced to lift and do things she physically couldn't by a physical therapist appointed by UNUM: (link: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/unum.html )

    :eek:

    Here is another UNUM horror story which mirror our own horror stories:
    If this weren't enough, UNUM was also found guilty of unlawfully trying to force its clients to apply for government disability insurance in the United States:
    Unum found guilty of social security disability fraud by a federal jury

    I highly recommend the ME/CFS community getting educated about public relations, media and keeping tabs on corporations because I feel this is going to be very relevant to advocacy work at this stage of the game.

    Here are some of my favorite websites: :sofa:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Global_Corporations
    http://prwatch.org
    http://corpwatch.org/
    http://www.commondreams.org/
     
  2. Min

    Min Guest

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    Do you have proof that he sits on the board at Unum? I thought he had left.
     
  3. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

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    I agree Annikki - this SMC (W) onslaught against ME sufferers does need looking into now. Don't think Wess is connected ny more but was see - http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Notes_on_the_Insurance_issue_in_ME.htm The meactionuk.org.uk (marvellous) is full of the history of ME, and looking over the facts what stands out is the stranglehold this small group of Psyches managed to have over all others. In the light of recent events and research findings it seems he has chosen to "attack" the whole ME community. Feelings were high because they turned a blind eye to scientific research contradicting his theories. I've not heard of (nor has there been published) any physical attack on him whatsoever. The other side (ours) does need to told and known more widely.

    For hysterics or militants or extremists read anyone who dare disagree with his (et al) opinions including other scientists. If we understand the history we can see the present situation more clearly to find a way forward in this disgraceful outpouring from the Media. The journalists or publications involved - why so partisan and ignorant of all the facts ? It comes across as an attempt to warn off ALL researchers with the most disturbing of this reporting - any threats he (et al) referred to of the past are present.
     
  4. Esther12

    Esther12 Senior Member

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    Has he ever been on the board?

    He has done some stuff for them, but I didn't think he ever held such a senior position.

    imo, it's vital the any responses are very careful to ensure all the claims made are accurate. When Wessely makes misleading statements, he will be given the benefit of the doubt, because he's a professor. If any patients do, it will be taken as evidence that we're conspiracy theorists/hysterical/militant/whatever.
     
    WillowJ likes this.
  5. Angela Kennedy

    Angela Kennedy

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    Very interesting analysis annikki. Thank you very much for this.

    I agree with Esther about the need to make sure claims are accurate of course. Wessely's alleged connection with UMUM being the issue here.
     
  6. justinreilly

    justinreilly Senior Member

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    He claims his only connection to the insurance industry is very minor consulting many years ago.

    He is always saying that we are misstating the facts that he is involved with insurance, so obviously this is very important to get exactly right. I don't think he is on the UNUM board. Can you pls confirm this and let us know what you found? Thanks.
     
    WillowJ likes this.
  7. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    The following was just posted by J&S Campbell <sllc.jkc@VIRGIN.NET> on Co-Cure as a preamble to the reply:

    "http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Prof-H-Observer-letter.htm

    This letter was submitted by Professor Hooper to the Observer, in
    response to the article by Robin McKie "Chronic fatigue syndrome
    researchers face death threats from militants", published on Sunday
    the 21st of August 2011,
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2...igue-syndrome-myalgic-encephalomyelitis/print

    Professor Hooper was contacted out of the blue by the reader's editor
    of the Observer. They spoke at length on the telephone and the editor
    asked Professor Hooper to respond to Robin McKie's article.

    The editor indicated that the responses to the article were building
    up into a feature length article for the Magazine section and
    Professor Hooper agreed to submit a longer article as well as a
    letter.


    He received an acknowledgement from the reader's editor saying it was
    there intention to use the letter but the following day he received a
    further email from the same person to say it would not be published."

    The bolding is mine. Maybe the Observer is about to publish a more balanced discussion.

    Bye
    Alex
     
  8. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

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    Might be alex I agree - just have to wait and see I guess if they are capable of understanding the "story" on the other side.
     
  9. Annikki

    Annikki

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    I just fixed my mistake. Wessely worked for PRISMA- he might still work for them. I don't have current information, so he may still work for PRISMA. It is Michael Sharpe who works for UNUM

    I got so little sleep last night I screwed up. I have another autoimmune condition called interstitial cystitis and this one really hurts your ability to sleep. It's when I'm tired that I make mistakes. I did want to get that information out about UNUM. I'm digesting some of the many articles from Margaret Williams ME advocacy page, my head is spinning. There is so much to learn about the history of ME/CFS. I've only been aware of these issues since February, so I'm playing catch up. There is just so much to read about this- one article I'm working on is 400 pages. Please forgive this careless error, I'm overdoing it sort of. :( The rest of the information is still good. Counter strategizing was the point.

    UNUM is involved with the Wessely school through Sharpe, not Wessely. Wessely is/was a corporate officer at PRISMA: The point I'm making still holds. All these doctors are intertwined with the insurance companies, and you can find parallels to ME research when you parse through records about these companies.

    This is what Margaret Williams says about Wessely, Sharpe, UNUM and PRISMA:
    In our Response to the MRC Research Advisory Group (RAG) Draft Document for Public Consultation on CFS/ME Research Strategy dated 17th December 2002 M.Hooper, EP Marshall, M Williams which can be viewed at http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Initial_Comments.htm , we brought to the attention of the MRC what Dr Sharpe states in the UNUM company Report entitled Trends in Health and Disability 2002, including his confirmation of the involvement of PRISMA in the delivery of cognitive behavioural therapy for those with CFS/ME. It will be recalled that in this UNUM Report, Dr Sharpe advises that a psychiatric classification provides an alternative diagnosis of somatoform disorder for patients with medically unexplained symptoms such as CFS and that such a classification has important treatment implications. Many people are aware that psychiatrist Simon Wessely is a Corporate Officer (and is ranked higher than the Board of Management, being a member of the Supervisory Board) of PRISMA, the multi-national commercial healthcare company which in this UNUM Report Dr Sharpe confirms has already begun funding rehabilitation of UNUM policyholders with programmes of CBT on behalf of the NHS.
     
  10. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

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    Are they still connected ? I noticed at the stage of PACE and Competing Interests it was stated 1) White has done voluntary and paid consultancy work for Depts Health and Work and Pensions and legal companies and a reinsurance co. 2) Sharpe has done voluntary and paid consultancy work for legal and insurancw cos 3) Chalder has done consultancy work for insurance cos and is author of Coping with Chronic Fatigue and co-author Overcoming Chronic Fatigue. Note the word HAS done. Still connected ? - I don't know but it is clear where their interests were.

    Don't overdo Annikki and hope sleep will come better.
     
  11. Merry

    Merry Senior Member

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    Thanks, Annikki, for your insight into how corporations and individuals use public relations and for your research on the corporate interests of Simon Wessely and cronies.

    But, as Enid points out, your health comes first. Take it easy.
     
  12. Annikki

    Annikki

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    Thanks. These diseases aren't fun. I try to take care of myself.
     
  13. ukxmrv

    ukxmrv Senior Member

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    Annikki,

    the UK ME patients are pretty clued up and have been reading about SW and his colleagues and links to insurance companies for years so it's old news to us.

    Good for newbies of course but Margaret Williams and Prof Hooper are our heroes here. It's not "just" UNUM causing problems in the UK for ME patients but other insurance companies as well. It's far bigger than SW and PW having old links to insurance companies. Other psych lobby doctors have links as well.

    UNUM is a far bigger problem here than links to specific doctors and the continuing abuse of ME patients who are insured with them. They are linked to the UK Govt department the DWP (who control benefits and some UK ME patients have huge difficulties getting the govt benefits due to them)

    http://www.meassociation.org.uk/?p=242


    We hoped to expose some of these insurance company links at the Judicial Review of the NICE Guidelines in 2009. However the Judge stopped consideration of much of the evidence. If you are interested have a read on the internet about that.

    Good luck and hope you feel better soon.
     
  14. Min

    Min Guest

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    I don't think SW works for PRISMA any more
     
  15. justinreilly

    justinreilly Senior Member

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    That's my understanding.
     
  16. SilverbladeTE

    SilverbladeTE Senior Member

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    Somewhere near Glasgow, Scotland
    Inside sources say he's working for Beelzebub Scrotes, Inc very old insurance company, apparently they still require you to sign their contracts in blood...very antiquated but hey, allows DNA checks I suppose?

    ;)
     

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