More information on Professor Wessely Scotsman article In Prof Hoopers letter to the editor of BBC Today programme and the journalist Tom Fielden Wesselys Words Revisited : http://forums.phoenixrising.me/showthread.php?13032-Wesselys-Words-Revisited he mentions Prof Wesselys response to a letter in the Scotsman some years ago. I remembered there was more interesting info on this in Corporate Collusion. It is very interesting reading, especially a journalists letter to Prof. Wessely and his response. Also at the very end his comment about being stalked by Margaret Williams! http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Corporate_Collusion_2.htm From "Corporate Collusion" Professor Hooper et al, September 2007, p72-75 Illustrations of threats issued by Simon Wessely In 1994, following publication of an article in the CFIDS Chronicle which quoted Wesselys own published views about ME/CFS patients (The Views of Dr Simon Wessely on ME: Scientific Misconduct in the Selection and Presentation of the Available Evidence?. CFIDS Chronicle, Spring 1994:14-18), Wessely was incensed. He threatened the UK distributors of the CFIDS Chronicle with an injunction unless they defaced every copy by removing the article before sending it out. The distributors were intimidated by Wesselys threats and they acquiesced. Subscribers in the UK who had paid in advance complained that they received defaced copies even though there was no injunction in place. Copies that were distributed world- http://www.meactionuk.org.uk/Corporate_Collusion_2.htm wide from the US were not affected, and Wesselys threats simply served to draw more attention to the article than might otherwise have been the case. On 18th January 2000, Simon Wessely wrote to the Countess of Mar that the ad hominen (sic) attacks upon him may have the unforeseen outcome of reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes of sufferers held by some in high office. Again, this seems to be nothing less than a threat using an intimidation technique made, it must never be forgotten, against very sick human beings who, since Wessely came to such prominence in 1987, had been trying to redress the wrongs perpetrated upon them by these powerful medical deniers. In October 2003, an article in The Scotsman (Doctors Notes: ME sufferers have found an enemy in Wessely so they need friends: The Scotsman, 6th October 2003) by Dr Margaret Cook, former wife of the late Robin Cook MP, accurately portrayed the significance of Wesselys role in the misperception of ME/CFS. She referred to Wesselys belief that ME does not exist at all; to his downplaying of the need for research into diagnostic markers; to his insistence that no state funding should be granted for research other than psychiatric studies and to the resultant closing down of the portals, thereby reducing the chance of the broad and open perspective needed to break through the barriers of prejudice and ignorance. In her article, Dr Cook also referred to a revolutionary article in the BMJ (May 2003) about doctors lavishly-generous sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies, and how the medical profession now prostitutes itself for funding, and how both treatment and research are distorted as a result. She noted Wesselys response to that article, in which he refused to countenance the possibility of his judgment being swayed by any such paymaster, about which Dr Cook commented: 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. It was indeed a remarkably frank article, but the point is that it was entirely factual and was fully supported by evidence. On 8th October 2003 Wessely wrote a letter to the Scotsman in response, in which he said: Margaret Cooks article shows the real battle is not between myself and sufferers of ME but between your correspondent and the facts. I have never suggested that CFS does not exist. Unlike Margaret Cook, I have spent the last 15 years of my life looking after sufferers from this condition. Quite how Margaret Cook thinks that I could block research into this condition is beyond me, but if she had read the recent Lancet editorial I co-wrote with the chief executive of Action for ME, she would have seen a plea for more, not less, research into all aspects of CFS/ME. Many letters were sent to the Scotsman, all supporting Dr Cook and thanking The Scotsman for publishing her article. One of them, from Tom Kindlon (from the Irish ME Support Group), said: As someone who has had ME for the last 14 years but was only diagnosed 9 years ago, I have devoted much of the last 9 years to reading the literature; based on this information, I feel breakthroughs are more likely if Prof Wessely (and other psychiatrists with similar views) had less influence on the area. Another response said: Wessely claims to have spent the last 15 years of his life looking after sufferers from ME yet for the most part, he has denied the very existence of ME(CFS). How many other caring doctors do you know who amuse themselves by orchestrating a campaign in the BMJ about non-diseases and who proposed ME as one of those non-diseases, as happened in April 2002? Wesselys ubiquitous misrepresentation of ME/CFS as a psychiatric disorder rests on his own definition of the disorder, not on the facts: it has been endlessly pointed out to him (supported by hard evidence) that he is wrong, yet he is unmoved. Wesselys long-term denial that these patients have an organic disorder which flies in the face of the now massive evidence that they do essentially means that he does not believe them. If Wessely persists in seeking the withdrawal of (the) article and an apology, the ME community would welcome the opportunity to bring everything out into the open, where Wessely might be shown to be a bully who ruthlessly attempts to silence the chronically sick who are so often powerless in the face of such power as that which he wields. A letter from DM Jones MSc said: Such has been his help to ME patients in his 15 years of almost supreme reign over their fate that he has successfully poisoned the minds of GPs and other healthcare professionals against these patients. Take for example his History of the postviral fatigue syndrome published in the prestigious British Medical Bulletin (BMB 1991:47:919-941) in the text he emphasises the similarities between neurasthenia and ME, citing comments on neurasthenia sufferers which include the following: always ailing, seldom ill; a useless, frivolous, noxious element of society; purely mental cases; laziness, indifference, weakness of mind and supersensitiveness characterise them all; the terror of the busy physician. One can only deduce that Dr (now Professor) Wessely wished ME sufferers to be viewed in this way by these professionals. It was apparent then already that the interests of the pharmaceutical industry played a significant role; all one needed to do is read the small print acknowledgements to realise this. I know I speak on behalf of many ME sufferers when I express my thanks to Dr Cook for speaking up for ME patients. Another response pointed out: Simon Wessely publicly claims that Margaret Cooks article shows the real battle is not between myself and sufferers of ME but between your correspondent and the facts, so let the facts speak for themselves. An interesting development then occurred: on 11th October 2003 Wessely wrote to a journalist who had published articles on ME/CFS, asking the journalists opinion about Dr Cooks article: This was published in The Scotsman on Monday. Do you think this is fair comment? I dont think I need to tell you my feelings. This seems to be rapidly spiralling out of control. Your views / advice? The journalist replied to Wessely, saying: You are obviously a hate figure (and) it might be interesting to enquire as to whether hate figures have any responsibility for the way they are perceived. The inescapable take-home message (that has been reinforced by newspaper headlines) is that this condition has a large psychological component, that these people are imagining it, making it up, being hysterical, suffering from neurasthenia etc. And that is not only seen as downgrading the reality of their condition but also has practical implications as far as benefits go. Whilst I take your point that you have looked into the physiological side and found nothing, it does seem to be the case that a number of other equally erudite / careful scientists have looked there and found something that they do think is significant. I have to admit that when you set that body of work against the conclusion of the MRC that the biological area was not worth major funding, it is hard to escape the conclusion that you and the MRC are not taking the biological side seriously and that you do regard this as a psychological condition. You may say that you do take on board the biological aspect but the inescapable fact is that you are getting 2 million plus to research more aspects of the psychological side, a degree of funding that is not matched in any way by the funding from the MRC going to the biological side. The public perception of what is going on is that your actions on the issue of definition have tended to reinforce the psychosocial basis of the disorder rather than the biological one, which is at the heart of the reason why you have been so vilified. My opinion is that you would not improve anything by attempting to take any legal or other steps you would be further seen as a major establishment figure attempting to silence / muzzle some poor powerless and chronically ill patients. A very simple step to change the perception of your position would be for you to give encouragement for a similarly sized grant to the one you have recently received, to look into some of the biological factors. It seems rather unlikely that there is something about CFS patients that makes them especially hostile and unreasonable, as opposed to people suffering from heart disease or multiple sclerosis (which) means the level of disagreement over CFS must reflect some underlying issue. Im sure there is a lot of psychiatric literature on how denying another persons reality triggers all sorts of deep hostile responses. In his response, Wessely entirely failed to address a single one of the legitimate points raised by the journalist, but what he did say, however, was astounding. Wessely said he was prepared to sue The Scotsman. He asserted that he had looked, but had found no abnormalities; incredibly, he claimed that he had carried out the same tests as the Dundee team (ie. vascular endothelial experiments) and had found nothing. It was not hitherto known that Wessely had carried out studies on ME/CFS patients using a highly sophisticated scanning laser Doppler flowmeter such as that used by the Dundee team, the central point being that if a study has not been published, it effectively has not been done. Wessely also said he had done work on genes and all his results were negative. He said he was against the Canadian case definition and claimed the authors were not unbiased scientists (as he was); he said there was no need for any more poor quality science. He said the whole field had moved forward and that the radicals were left fighting yesterdays battles and there was now a remarkable rapprochement between the psychiatrists and the ME charities. Wessely said that it was only a coterie around the Countess of Mar who do not support his views, and that the cause that the radicals are fighting is over. He said the radicals needed a reality check and their behaviour was outrageous; he said that the radicals were crazy and were engaged in fantasies, lies and gross distortions. The opinion of the journalist was that what Wessely was saying was bizarre. The reaction of the radicals around the Countess of Mar was this was pretty frightening stuff, because it was such a denial of reality. As Dr John Greensmith from Bristol pointed out in a letter to The Scotsman: It is instructive to examine how Professor Wessely has raised passions to this level of fervour by, perhaps more than any other single individual, being responsible for making the area so controversial as it is. Wessely demanded a retraction of Dr Cooks article and an apology, and under the onslaught of his threats, The Scotsman capitulated and the article was withdrawn. On 5th January 2004 The Scotsman afforded Wessely the right of reply to Dr Cook and stated: On 6th October we published an article on the controversial subject of chronic fatigue syndrome. The article contained assertions concerning Professor Simon Wessely of Kings College, London. We accept that these assertions were without foundation, and Dr Margaret Cook was sacked by The Scotsman from her position as regular columnist. This was yet another travesty of justice for the ME/CFS community, but the matter did not end there. In his right of reply, Wessely made assertions that caused widespread incredulity and fury. His article was carefully crafted to appear reasonable, straightforward and wholly supportive of patients, for example: It is a scandal that we are so in love with our high tech medicine that we are reluctant to accept suffering at face value and However, there is another scandal of even greater concern. It is the scandal of service and research or more precisely the lack of them. His article went on to state: There are one or two units that have done sterling research over the years and he said that there are now evidence-based treatments, but that only a minority of patients have any chance of accessing them and this was because for many years CFS/ME has been a battleground. But that was the unhappy past. The publication of new reports by the Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Research Council show a new consensus emerging. The patient organisations now are active partners with clinicians, fighting on the same side for more services and more money for research. Wessely continued: But not everyone welcomes the new consensus and partnership. A few individuals continue to denigrate many people who have spent years studying the illness and trying to help patients. And this comes over loud and clear to those clinicians who need to commit themselves to developing new services. Too many feel the heat and decide not to enter the kitchen. Continuing to attack those few clinicians and researchers who are already engaged will achieve none of these goals. Who could fail to be impressed by such a well-balanced and sensible article? Those who knew it not to be true, perhaps, and who at once recognised the tactics employed, including disingenuous self-promotion? The game was, however, totally given away by his statement: I have been saying for 15 years that this is a real illness, which essentially reiterated what he had said in his first letter of 8th October 2003 to The Scotsman: I have never suggested that CFS does not exist. There can be no question -- as there is substantial evidence -- that the Wessely School equates ME with CFS: in the Institute of Psychiatrys Training Video for Physicians produced by Sir David Goldberg and Professor Trudie Chalder (Training Physicians in Mental Health Skills: The Management of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), it clearly states: chronic fatigue syndrome is just another name for (ME). It means the same thing to the medical profession (Vignette 2: Assessing a tired patient). Further, in 2003 Wessely wrote: It may seem that adopting the lay label (ME) reinforces the perceived disability. A compromise strategy is constructive labelling: it would mean treating CFS as a legitimate illness while gradually expanding understanding of the condition to incorporate the psychological and social dimensions. The recent adoption by the UK Medical Research Council and the Chief Medical Officers report of the term CFS/ME reflects such a compromise, albeit it an uneasy one (BMJ 2003:326:595-597). If Wessely equates ME with CFS, and insists that ME does not exist, where does this leave his claim that he has been saying for 15 years that CFS is a real illness? What Wessely has been saying for more than 15 years is that ME does not exist and that CFS is a real (ie. legitimate) behavioural disorder, not a classified organic disorder. Whilst no-one denies that mental and behavioural illnesses are real, what Wessely has been saying about ME/CFS for more than the last 15 years is somewhat different and for the avoidance of doubt, a few of his assertions about ME are worth repeating: in 1990, Wessely wrote that ME exists only because well-meaning doctors have not learnt to deal effectively with suggestible patients (Psychological Medicine 1990:20:35-53) in 1990, Wessely wrote: It is regrettable that ME has become a fad (The chronic fatigue syndrome myalgic encephalomyelitis or postviral fatigue. In: Recent Advances in Clinical Neurology. Churchill Livingstone 1990) in 1994 Wessely said: I will argue that ME is simply a belief, a belief that one has an illness called ME and: The Royal Free Disease itself is part of the world of myth (Microbes, Mental Illness, the Media and ME: The Construction of Disease. 9th Eliot Slater Memorial Lecture, Institute of Psychiatry, London, 12th May 1994) in 1994 Wessely wrote: Most doctors will be familiar with patients who complain about a wide variety of symptoms but whose physical examination and investigations show no abnormality. (Such) symptoms have no anatomical or physiological basis (J Hosp Med 1994:51:8:421-427) in 1995 Wessely again stated that ME was a belief (Clin & Exp. Allergy 1995:25:503-514) in 2002 Wessely was involved in the BMJ poll that found ME to be a non-disease that was best left medically untreated even in his reply of 5th January 2004 in The Scotsman, Wessely stated: Finding anything in CFS/ME will be seized upon by some as further proof that the disorder is genuine, which would seem to convey his deep belief that it is not a genuine disorder. It seems that Wessely is not averse to contradicting himself. As a consequence, in relation to ME/CFS, the term evidence-based medicine has become meaningless. Illustration of Wesselys claim that he is being victimised On 15th November 2004 Wessely wrote to a correspondent: I cant recall when i last went to an ME meeting to be honest, but no doubt Margaret Williams will be able to remind me. Its a funny feeling still being stalked like this, and I cant say its a pleasant one for either myself or my family. The reality is that Margaret Williams has been virtually housebound for the last 20 years; she has never stalked anyone and has only once referred to the fact that Wesselys wife is a senior policy adviser at the Department of Health, a position that is in the public domain. Attempting to hold Wessely to account for his own words does not constitute any form of stalking". .................... Margaret Williams is still virtually housebound.