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BBC Today Programme: Full Tom Feilden interview with Prof Simon Wessely - Transcribed

Firestormm

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My transcription - usual disclaimers apply though I think it is pretty accurate (certainly took my time over it). Feel free to re-post. I find it is always handy knowing who actually said what and in what context.

BBC Today Programme: Tom Feilden interviews Professor Simon Wessely

Malicious harassment of ME researchers

Friday 29 July 2011: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9550000/9550947.stm

iplayer: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9550000/9550947.stm

Tom Feilden:

This is a very alarming campaign really of harassmentsomething a small group of academics working on chronic fatigue syndrome or ME...and it has included abuse and intimidation, death threats vilification on internet websites and also a series of official complaints alleging both personal and professional misconduct to universities ethics oversight boards and the General Medical Council but really at its heart it seems to be an objection by some activists to the association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with mental illness its characterisation as a psychiatric condition. Now they claim the real cause is biological and want research to focus exclusively on identifying the as yet undiscovered virus responsible. One of those targeted is Professor Simon Wessely from Kings College London hes received a series of death threats and now has his mail routinely scanned for suspect devices

Professor Simon Wessely: Its a direct intimidation letters, emails, occasional phone calls and threats; but more often indirect intimidation through my employer through the General Medical Council and its something that Im always aware of with everything I do that there are people watching who try and make life difficult.

TF: You say try and make life difficult but it has been pretty spiteful, hasnt it? I mean pretty malicious campaign.

SW: Yes yes clearly I think it is maliciously unfair and unjustified and intended to hurt all of it intended to denigrate and you know try and as these campaigns do to try and make you into a kind of a leper so that no one will anything to do with this terrible person. I am pleased to say that it hasnt worked but that doesnt mean that it hasnt had some personal cost.

TF: And there were some personal threats in there as well havent there?

SW: Yes there certainly have been. I mean I have never been the target of violence but I have been the target of threats of violence and because of that we have taken security advice and police advice you know we do quite a few of the things that people in this institution who work with animals, for example in animal research do, and take sensible precautions and we are occasionally briefed on particular threats.

TF: You talked about a campaign there and Im really interested in what you think this is actually all about? What this motivates these attacks?

SW: I think sadly some of the motivation here comes from people who really do believe that any connection with psychiatry and the world of psychiatry is tantamount to saying There is nothing wrong with you. You are making this up. Go away. You are not really ill. Now thats profoundly misguided it fails to understand the whole nature of so many disorders such as you know Schizophrenia, Autism, Bi-polar Disorder, Major Depression, Alzheimers etc. which are psychiatric disorders as classified, treated by psychiatrists; but are clearly serious primary brain disorders in all sorts of ways, but they fail to understand that you know the organic nature of the conditions and instead they fall victim to the label and they believe that the mere involvement of of psychiatry denigrates them and denigrates the condition.

TF: And thats why you get people seem to latch onto the idea that there might be a virus involved and that we just.. err errwe havent found the concrete cause of this disease and people like you and in a big conspiracy to pretend that they are all malingering?

SW: Yes.. certainly you can feel almost the depth of the passions sometimes when generally people seem to prefer to be diagnosed with like a retrovirus a potentially incurable, maybe even fatal illness rather than an illness for which actually we do have some reasonable, but not perfect, treatments and that I think really attests to the strength of feeling here. I would rather have an incurable virus than a potentially curable disorder, if the cure or treatment involved any acknowledgment of a social or psychological.

TF: Id rather have an incurable disease than a mental health problem?

SW: Well, yes I mean I think that is very sad because I think what it does do is it deprives patients of avenues of management that might be beneficial and I think it is very sad if anyone listening turns their back on treatments that have been validated and been shown to help because of a belief that If I went down that route that would mean I was making all this up.

Time: 04.26.

Follow-up Article by Tom Feilden: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14326514 503 comments now and counting...
 

Snow Leopard

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SW: Yes there certainly have been. I mean I have never been the target of violence but I have been the target of threats of violence and because of that we have taken security advice and police advice you know we do quite a few of the things that people in this institution who work with animals, for example in animal research do, and take sensible precautions and we are occasionally briefed on particular threats.

Well there you go.
The fact is that psychiatrists are often at risk of violence - that is not news. The fact that SW has never been exposed to this shows that he is working in one of the safest areas of psychiatry.

You know, a normal person would take this as a wake up call - to realise that they are out of touch with patients. But instead SW turns to paranoia...
 

currer

Senior Member
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1,409
ME patients in Britain had a lifetime blood ban imposed on them on November 1st 2010 - unlike patients with depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

I do not think patients "prefer" to be diagnosed with a retrovirus, as stated unquestioningly in this interview.
There are serious concerns that they may indeed have a transmissible retrovirus which could spread to others in the blood supply.
The British government has been disingenuous about this, but the Irish government has clearly stated that the reason is to protect recipeints from possible infection.
http://www.imet.ie/imet_website/snippets/21st_april_2011_snippets.html

"Latch on to the idea that there might be a retrovirus involved.....I wonder what the Blood Working Group would make of this statement.
How many millions have been spent setting the BWG up?
 

Firestormm

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Did you chaps know that the only time the words 'death threat' were used in any of these interviews on the radio recently (including the one I haven't posted) was not by Prof Wessely - as some are convinced - but by Dr Esther Crawley in reference to one particular email she read out on air?

The use of this term appears to be down to the BBC journalists and those who prepared the News Headlines I guess as well as those in the snoozepapers who pitched in post-portem. 'Death threat' is not even referred to in the articles featured in the British Medical Journal either. From whence then did the terminology originate do you think? It certainly seems now to have been assumed Wessely said it. But no.
 

anniekim

Senior Member
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U.K
Firestorm, thank you for transcribing it, but even if wessley didn't say death threats he has still said other inflammatory remarks this week in the papers, such as saying he feels safer in Iraq and afghanistan than I'm the uk where all those beastly people with m.e are. And, of course, peddling his flawed theories about our illness. As a Brit, I'm appalled with our media this week.
 

Angela Kennedy

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Did you chaps know that the only time the words 'death threat' were used in any of these interviews on the radio recently (including the one I haven't posted) was not by Prof Wessely - as some are convinced - but by Dr Esther Crawley in reference to one particular email she read out on air?

The use of this term appears to be down to the BBC journalists and those who prepared the News Headlines I guess as well as those in the snoozepapers who pitched in post-portem. 'Death threat' is not even referred to in the articles featured in the British Medical Journal either. From whence then did the terminology originate do you think? It certainly seems now to have been assumed Wessely said it. But no.

Firestormm, The Hawkes article actually says this:

"Simon Wessely, professor of epidemiological and liaison
psychiatry at Kings College School of Medicine in London,
has been the target of such attacks for years. Hes been compared
on the internet to Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who performed
experiments on inmates of concentration camps. Hes had threats
against his life
, been accused of throwing a boy into a swimming
pool to check if his paralysis was genuine, been bombarded
with offensive emails, and had complaints against him made to
his employers and to the General Medical Council."

That is quite clearly a claim of a death threat.

Later, this is said:

Since PACE was published this has become more intense, and
at present the police are looking into two cases in which specific
threats have been made to my physical safety.
These people are
sulphurous, vicious, horrible.

That's not claims of wishful thinking, that is saying he's claiming to have been threatened with harm to his physical safety.

Crawley's the one with the 'police think saying you will all pay constitutes a death threat' claim.

But the Hawkes article IS a clear illustration Wessely is claiming he has been threatened with having his life ended.

To make matters even more 'persuasive', Wessely claims special security procedures are needed to keep him safe (these aren't for fun, nor is he claiming these are normal security procedures say, in his university). Twice he has claimed now to feel safer in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan (how reassuring for the family, friends, and comrades of those people killed in those war zones, I don't think). In the link below, he is quoted as claiming threats of 'violence'.

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-07-british-chronic-fatigue-scientists-death.html

For various reasons, the 'death threat' claims themselves do appear not safe, not least because no intent to kill type correspondence has been published, as far as I know, so 'death threats' claims remain unsubstantiated. But nevertheless, the CLAIMS of 'death threats' are there, when 'death threat' means a threat against one's life.
 

Firestormm

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My point was though that he was not quoted as saying them in the articles. However, in today's Times article he is quoted as saying 'death threats' have been made, but not so many - think he says a 'few' or something? Would have to check. Sorry just woken up :)

The 'special security procedures' - the scanning of mail I guess you mean - is probably what he was advised to do. Dr Crawley made reference to the fact that when she starting receiving this sort of thing it was protocol to report it to the police and (presumption on my part here), they would have provided advice.

Not 'police protection' though as I believe Prof. Hooper mentioned. Costing the state lots of money :)

But yeah I agree the 'military work is safer' gibe is in bad taste. It probably made him laugh and the original interviewer too perhaps. He seems to be a humorous guy - did you see the photograph?!

Wessely_91166595_187232c.jpg


Not very tidy either!
 

Angela Kennedy

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So we are agreed that Wessely has claimed 'death threats', where this denotes threats against his life?

To be honest, I'm not in the business of speculating anything about Professor Wessely, or making judgements about his humour or untidiness or anything like that, which are not relevant. I only want to deal in facts and accuracy, especially when inaccuracy and lack of facts are directly harming this community and its supporters, including myself specifically.
 

Firestormm

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Location
Cornwall England
Do I think Wessely believes some of the threats he has received were against his life? Well, he said 'death threats' didn't he?

'If not a little frightening too. Ive had people ringing up and say, Were gonna get you. Ive had death threats. Not many but, you know, you dont need very many to find them a little bit disturbing.

Threats and intimidation arent things one normally associates with patient lobbying groups. One can hardly imagine contributors to Cancer Research UK threatening to murder leading oncologists.'

My point was he never said 'death threats' before until this interview in the Times. Small point I know.
 

Angela Kennedy

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Essex, UK
Do I think Wessely believes some of the threats he has received were against his life? Well, he said 'death threats' didn't he?

'If not a little frightening too. Ive had people ringing up and say, Were gonna get you. Ive had death threats. Not many but, you know, you dont need very many to find them a little bit disturbing.

Threats and intimidation arent things one normally associates with patient lobbying groups. One can hardly imagine contributors to Cancer Research UK threatening to murder leading oncologists.'

My point was he never said 'death threats' before until this interview in the Times. Small point I know.

Hi Firestormm.

I don't think it's a relevant point. He will have had fact-check on the Nigel Hawkes article, and will have made that claim to Hawkes. Just because he wasn't quoted as saying it before now is not the point. The Hawkes article is where the latest claims of 'death threats' came from 'originally', and they are coming from Wessely.

But- as for cancer sufferers threatening to murder oncologists: firstly, as we've seen, these 'death threat' claims appear highly unsafe and certainly have not been either adequately substantiated or quantified, so no, we can't presume there's a bunch of ME sufferers going around threatening to murder doctors; and secondly, disagreeing or objecting to doctors' treatments where these are wrong, or negligent, is not uncommon among patient groups. The AIDS sufferers and their supporters being a case in point (and some of those were EXTREMELY 'uppity', throwing vials of fake blood at doctors etc.). But on a non 'aggressive' level, many patients find themselves disagreeing with their doctor, having reason to complain, make public or private objection etc.

What has been clear from this latest media blitz is that the majority of those patients and supporters, subject of the opprobium of Wessely and his colleagues, are those engaged in LEGITIMATE expression of objection to their promotion of psychogenic explanations for ME. Cut away the alleged criminal acts, and what you have mostly is an attack on the advocates who make official and/or public complaints and objections. THEY are the 'baddies' as far as Wessely and his colleagues are concerned.

This is absurd behaviour on the part of Wessely and his colleagues. The right to public and official channels of complaint, to hold people accountable for actions where they cause harm, is afforded to the public: and Wessely, Crawley et al are not above that, any more than any public employee (or indeed any employee!).
 

oceanblue

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Thanks for the transcritpion. And yes, The 6.8 Times article was the first time I've seen him say anything so specific about threats to his life (as opposed to him interpreting statements of ill will as death threats).
 
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I think its the best thing in our favour when he speaks out this way.

First of all, he puts him self in the position of a victim. Feeling sorry for himself hardly earns him any sympathies, just as little as it does to us.
Secondly, even the most ignorant people must start to wonder how he earned himself that much hatred. By speaking out this way he brings his crimes to the public, which both demonstrates his idiocy as well as his arrogance.

I do see that for the people suffering from his crimes, everthing he says must be a disgusting provocation. But its in our best interest that he goes on this way. He certainly deserves to be called what he is at any opportunity. And the more disgruntled he is, the better for us..
 

orion

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I think its the best thing in our favour when he speaks out this way.

First of all, he puts him self in the position of a victim. Feeling sorry for himself hardly earns him any sympathies, just as little as it does to us.
Secondly, even the most ignorant people must start to wonder how he earned himself that much hatred. By speaking out this way he brings his crimes to the public, which both demonstrates his idiocy as well as his arrogance.

I do see that for the people suffering from his crimes, everthing he says must be a disgusting provocation. But its in our best interest that he goes on this way. He certainly deserves to be called what he is at any opportunity. And the more disgruntled he is, the better for us..

I agree. Wessely's penchant for self-publicity is actually his achilles heel. There are plenty of other equally obnoxious self-serving characters within the medical establishment working against our interests. But they mostly have the good sense to keep their mouths shut.

I believe this new gloves off approach by Wessely and some of his colleagues can only help us in the long term.

The power of the medical profession is based to a large extent on the ability of doctors to convince the general public that they are trustworthy. Engaging in open warfare with patients erodes that trust and is bad for business. Once public trust is lost then many of the privileges enjoyed by the profession such as self-regulation, and a monopoly on prescribing, start to come under threat.