Dr David Tuller: An Ill-informed Article in The Guardian


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Trial By Error: An Ill-Informed Article in The Guardian
13 AUGUST 2019

By David Tuller, DrPH
People who know little or nothing about the illness or cluster of illnesses variously called myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS/ME, and ME/CFS can’t seem to stop writing stupid and ill-informed stories about it. And Professor Michael Sharpe seems to blame “Americans”–rather than his own disastrous research–for his current problems and the reputational damage he has suffered. That’s mainly what I got from articles in The Guardian and Psychology Today that followed one another in quick and dispiriting succession last month.

Both stories were essentially rehashes of the March dung-heap written by Reuters “reporter” Kate Kelland, one of the Science Media Centre’s BFFs in the UK. Right now I’ll focus on the Guardian piece. (It ran on a Sunday, so it was presented as a piece in The Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper.)

The writer, Andrew Anthony, is a long-time contributor who apparently accepts whatever he reads in Reuters at face value. He presents Professor Sharpe as a man at the top of his field, an Oxford don of high principle and integrity, at the inexplicable mercy of irrational, abusive patients. And once again, I am presented as the enabler-in-chief and some sort of Pied Piper of ME, leading patients on a path away from science, reason and the evidence-based benefits of CBT and GET.
The article tries to balance Professor Sharpe’s silly statements by quoting Dr Charles Shepherd, the ME Association’s medical expert. But since Anthony appears to have little awareness of the issues involved or the problems with the trial, he largely adopts the frame presented by Professor Sharpe. As an example, let’s take a look at how the article explains why PACE was controversial:
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