Here is my comment on today’s article, “Head Case,” in The Economist:
I am quite surprised to find such biased reporting in The Economist. There is no mention of the fact that thousands of scientific studies have proven that Prof. Wessely and Co. are just plain wrong claiming that ME/CFS is a psychological illness. These studies have shown dozens of physiological abnormalities in ME/CFS patients, e.g., low to non-existent natural killer cell function, brain lesions, low cardiac output, abnormal EEGs, high viral load, etc. To suggest that patients would prefer not having a psychological illness is distorting the facts. The truth is that patients are tired of the wasting of money on psychological studies when it is a proven fact that ME/CFS is a neuro-immune disease. This is like spending the only available research money for a viral disease on studying antibiotics for its cure, except it’s worse because psychologizing of ME/CFS is designed to stigmatize the patients as malingerers, attention seekers and fakers. I would argue that it is quite rational to take issue with such an approach.
The author of this article also neglects to mention how many patients have been victimized based on Prof. Wessely’s pseudo science. Prof. Wessely recommends exercise therapy when it is well established that exercise makes ME/CFS patients sicker, often significantly and sometimes irreversibly so. He also recommends cognitive behavioral therapy, which is supposed to cure the patients of their faulty illness beliefs. Again, is it not understandable that patients of a proven neuro-immune disease would object to such treatments? Nevertheless, Prof. Wessely is painted as a blameless victim. I am not condoning death threats; they have to be condemned, no doubt about it. That is if they really happened. Did it occur to the author of this article that Prof. Wessely has an incentive to paint ME/CFS patients as nutcases who would threaten his life? It’s not like Prof. Wessely is a neutral party here.
The way Prof. Wessely’s teachings have distorted reality and lead to the abandonment and inappropriate treatment of severely ill people in the UK is reminiscent of the dark ages. There is a real story here, a big one. Granted, it takes some effort to research the facts, more effort than to just believe one side of the story. But isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do: provide neutral coverage and in the process discover the facts?
Writing a piece as unbalanced as this one is not only unprofessional, it is irresponsible and dangerous. It would have served the author well to talk to at least one medical expert in the ME/CFS arena, but that is probably asked too much of somebody who uses the title “Head Case” to report on a serious neuro-immune disease. Clearly, the author had made up his or her mind without doing the homework.