Wesselygate

This is not so much about the vicious group of ME/CFS activists known as the One Click Group as about the kind of thing that led to the Wikipedia Biographies of Living Personspolicies.

Back in November 2005 I was doing a bit of vandal-spotting on Wikipedia and found an anonymous edit to an article titled Simon Wessely. Thinking it a mis-spelling of one of the Methodist Wesleys, and a bit curious as to who Simon Wesley might have been, I went along to have a look. What I found was a rant (there is no other word for it, see below) posted by, as it turned out, a member of an ME/CFS sufferers group called the One Click group; it was clearly defamatory and fell a long way short of the required “neutral point of view”, with phrases like this:

Professor Wessely should be granted a dictionary of his own, so far has he stretched the meaning of the English language while attempting to explain that ME although a ‘real’ illness, is often first imagined. He has trodden the tightrope of confusing semantics with the balance of Blondel and the focus of a train spotter.

First I reduced it to a stub while I worked on it (they reverted it, and accused me of vandalism – a wiki “crime” – for undoing “book text” which was “approved by lawyers”), then I tried simply rewording it to a more neutral tone. No go: they simply reverted, para by para and line by line, to the original text. And accused me of being an “apologist” and a “hagiographer”. Eventually Wessely contacted the admins and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales reverted to a sub-stub and locked it.

A couple of us worked up a new version, which was based on verifiable data (which, as we discovered, bore very little resemblance to what the One Click group said). That’s what’s there now – and if they were pissed off before that was nothing compared with how livid they were with the new article! So they took to flaming me first on Wikipedia, then on their website (this should take you to the right place, roughly). And of course the real laugh is that if they had left well alone an inaccurate and sympathetic (to them) version would be there now. There were some gross inaccuracies, like saying I was a Wiki admin, which I wasn’t, although I am now, and among the more prize idiocies was picking up a flame I posted to serial Usenet troll and anti-bike bigot Mike Vandeman after a series of gleeful reports of deaths of mountain bikers (one of whom was not even riding a bike at the time),and representing it as if I were attacking some upstanding pillar of the community.

Biggest stupidity of all was the assumption that I had some kind of brief for Wessely. As anyone who knows anything about me at all will realise, if there is quackery around I like to pick and prod at its soft underbelly (yes, Diane C Thompson, this means you!). In the end instead of recruiting me they pissed me off, with the result that I was far more sceptical of One Click’s claims. Luckily this turns out to have been a sound approach, as even their friends often distance themselves from One Click’s savagely aggressive campaigning. Oh, one more irony: Wessely turns out to be a cyclist, and One Click has an association with the Countess of Mar, who spoke in favour of a Lords amendment to the 2006 Road Safety Bill compelling – you guessed it! – cycle helmets. So much for “evidence-based medicine”…

On the left is One Click’s screed, on the right my rewording. They accused me of invention, hagiography and outright lies. See how many statements you can find on the right that are not identifiably reworded from the text on the left.

Note: This text is based on a highly biased and often outright false portrayal of the subject – neither version is accurate, this discusses only the allegation that the rewording was a hagiography, and that factual inaccuracies were introduced solely as a result of that rewording.

Update March 2011: Jane Bryant, owner of One-Click, has been convicted of criminal harassment and is currently subject to a curfew enforced by electronic tag. Angela Kennedy is, I believe, no longer associated with One-Click.

One Click version Version as toned down by me
Simon Wessely is Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at King’s College School of Medicine, London, UK.He heads a specialist unit at this institution studying CFS/ME patients. The subject of CFS/ME takes up the majority of his professional time.

Speaking at the 9th Eliot Slater Memorial Lecture in 1994, Professor Wessely affirmed that: “I will argue that ME is simply a belief, the belief that one has an illness called ME.”

Professor Simon Wessely plays an important part in a network of psychiatric medical professionals whose views and research are almost completely coincidental with those of the government policies of Britain and North America. He has access to funding, media and support, which enables him to shape and promote the prevailing view about a number of issues which are of importance to those States.

Professor Wessely is the leading chronic fatigue syndrome research academic in Britain, heading the CFS Research Unit at King’s College Hospital, now part of Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ School of Medicine (GKT). There he also heads the Gulf War Research Unit and pursues the role of civilian adviser in psychiatry to the British Army. Since the end of the 1980s, Professor Wessely has steered a fine line, carefully avoiding categorising ME and CFS patients as mentally ill, whilst nevertheless working hard to classify their illness, against the prevailing trend, as a psychiatric condition.

Wessely has established an unrivalled position as a well placed government adviser and peer reviewer in almost all the seminal journals. He has been involved with every serious inquiry into ME and CFS over the past decades, and his papers and those of his colleagues, produced in considerable number, dominate the field in any literature review.

Professor Wessely should be granted a dictionary of his own, so far has he stretched the meaning of the English language while attempting to explain that ME although a ‘real’ illness, is often first imagined. He has trodden the tightrope of confusing semantics with the balance of Blondel and the focus of a train spotter.

In the late 1980s, as a member of the newly-formed Campaign Against Health Fraud, Wessely collaborated closely with former trade magazine hack Caroline Richmond, the campaign founder, who played a leading role in helping him to publicly demolish the scientific categorisation of ME and to re-determine it in the minds of the public as a sham illness. His collaboration with Richmond, and later with the feminist literary critic and professor of humanities Elaine Showalter, empowered both Richmond and Showalter to speak with spurious authority at conferences and seminars on ME, CFS and Gulf War Syndrome, despite their complete lack of medical expertise or education. Showalter has become deeply involved in Wessely’s forays into military-funded GWS research. Her atrociously muddled book, ‘Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture’, suggests that ME, GWS and such things as claimed alien abductions are all equally part of a contemporary hysteria.

Wessely’s research results and publicly-expressed views have stirred the ire of patient self-help groups. He has stated openly that members of such mutual support groups for ME and CFS are fooling themselves, refusing to face up to the reality that their illness is psychosomatic.

Wessely works in the most prestigious London units involved in psychiatric research. The GKT complex also encompasses the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP). The whole of Wessely’s department in the IOP is committed to, and working on, issues relating to the psychiatric aetiology of illness. He is also involved in the King’s College Centre for Risk Management (KCRM), which is researching the perceived health risks of mobile phones and their masts, with the view, no doubt, to finding that there are none.

The IOP receives funding from, among others, Unilever, SmithKline Beecham, Pfizer, Novartis, NPS Pharmaceuticals; Lilly Industries Ltd. (manufacturers of Prozac), Hoescht Marion Roussel, Glaxo-SmithKline (Seroxat), Bristol Myers Squibb, Bayer, Zeneca and Wyeth.

Professor Wessely has been employed or grant-aided by both the British Ministry of Defence and the US Defense Department. He has contributed to seminars and meetings at NATO on crisis management of public fears of terrorist incidents. His connections with the military clearly involve conflicts of interests, and his work on Gulf War syndrome is thus automatically more suspect than that of independent researchers.

Professor Wessely is an adviser to PRISMA Health, which was founded in 1999 and began establishing its programme in Europe and North America. Its head office and the corporate staff are based in Essen, Germany, and its president in the year 2000 was George F. Thoma, a German managing partner at Shearman & Sterling, a global law firm with more than 1,000 lawyers based in the world’s financial capitals. Representatives of the US government and the most powerful corporations of North America, such as Monsanto, have visited the company’s offices in New York. Thoma is a member of the company’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and practises primarily in the areas of corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and privatisations.

Professor Wessely devised the programme on CFS that PRISMA is selling to insurance companies for people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Interestingly, he says nothing in the company introduction about patients suffering from any kind of psychological difficulties, although he lays emphasis on antidepressant drugs, the prescription of which, one imagines, must be preceded by some kind of psychiatric evaluation. Professor Wessely played a leading part in the Chief Medical Officer’s Inquiry into ME/CFS, which was organised from 1998 to 2002. Very near the end of the inquiry, the psychiatric aetiology contingent walked out en masse, claiming that the final report of the committees would veer too close to suggesting that ME and CFS was a physical illness. Despite this childish protest, the final report advised that more funding should be given to the MRC to investigate ME and CFS.

The money for this further research was duly granted to the Medical Research Council, and then diverted, in toto, to Wessely’s colleagues. The funding was used to finance what have become known in ME circles as the ‘fraudulent PACE trials’. See The PACE Report at http://tinyurl.com/boabe. This research looked at the already-decided psychological treatments for the ‘psychiatric’ conditions of ME and CFS.

In 1994 Wessely wrote: “These [ME/CFS] patients are generally viewed as an unavoidable, untreatable and unattractive burden” (British Journal of Hospital Medicine 1994:51:8:421-427).

There is a heated debate amongst the doctors ensuing on ME/CFS. One side of the debate consists of neurologists and endocrinologists who consider ME/CFS to be a neurological disease, as does the World Health Organisation that has classified neurological ME/CFS under ICD-10 G93.3. The other side of the debate is represented by Professor Wessely who considers it to be a somatisation disorder. There is copious bio medical research on ME/CFS from scientists from around the world that Professor Wessely and his colleagues elect to ignore.

The most important and recent clinical criteria produced on ME/CFS for use by physicians for diagnosis and treatment for this disease is the Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Clinical Working Case Definition, Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols published in 2003 under the auspices of the Canadian government. The ME/CFS Canadian Guidelines are available here:http://tinyurl.com/br8oa. Produced by an expert international panel of physicians who have between them treated/diagnosed over 25,000 ME/CFS patients worldwide, these criteria are the gold standard in medical knowledge on this disease. Professor Simon Wessely and his psychiatric colleagues have spent the last two years valiantly ignoring these clinical criteria to the detriment of all the 240,000 ME/CFS sufferers in the UK.

External link

  • [‘Skewed’ by Martin J. Walker.] ISBN No. 0-9519646-4-x. Psychiatric hegemony and the maufacture of mental illness in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • The Psychiatric Paradigm of ME/CFS by Angela Kennedy, of the One Click pressure group for ME/CFS patients
  • The PACE Report by Jane Bryant of The One Click Group that reveals the workings of this psychiatric clinical trial that is to employ psychosocial treatments at the newly operational CFS/ME Centres with funding in excess of £11.1m
  • Article about him
  • The Views of Dr. Simon Wessely on M.E.: Scientific misconduct in the selection and presentation of available evidence?

Consideration of some issues relating to the published views of Psychiatrists of the “Wessely School” in relation to their belief about the nature,cause and treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis The mental health movement: persecution of patients? A consideration of the role of Wesseley and other members of the Wesseley school in the perception of CFS in the UK


(Some links have been removed as of July 2007, as they are now 404)

Simon Wessely is Professor of Epidemiological and Liaison Psychiatry at King’s College School of Medicine, London, UK.He heads a specialist unit at this institution studying CFS/ME patients. The subject of CFS/ME takes up the majority of his professional time.

His conclusions, which are openly sceptical, are rejected by many sufferers.

Speaking at the 9th Eliot Slater Memorial Lecture in 1994, Professor Wessely affirmed that: “I will argue that ME is simply a belief, the belief that one has an illness called ME.” In 1994 Wessely wrote: “These [ME/CFS] patients are generally viewed as an unavoidable, untreatable and unattractive burden” (British Journal of Hospital Medicine 1994:51:8:421-427). His stated aim is to reduce this burden.

Wessely plays an important part in a network of psychiatric medical professionals whose views and research underpin the policies of Britain and North America. His views are influential in setting that policy, and is considered the leading chronic fatigue syndrome research academic in Britain, heading the CFS Research Unit at King’s College Hospital, now part of Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’ School of Medicine (GKT). There he also heads the Gulf War Research Unit and pursues the role of civilian adviser in psychiatry to the British Army. Since the end of the 1980s, Professor Wessely has promoted the idea that these conditions, while not mental illness, are primarily psychological in origin.

Contents

[hide]

Wessley as Government advisor

Wessely has established pre-eminent position as a government adviser, and is a peer reviewer for most of the major journals covering the issue. He has been involved with every significant inquiry into ME and CFS for some decades, and his papers and those of his colleagues, produced in considerable number, dominate most literature reviews.

In the late 1980s, as a member of the newly-formed Campaign Against Health Fraud, Wessely collaborated closely with former journalist Caroline Richmond, the campaign founder, who played a leading role in helping him to re-determine the categorisation of ME the minds of the public as a pshychological, rather than a physical condition. His collaboration with Richmond, and later with Professor Elaine Showalter (a feminist lterary figure), led to them addressing seminars on ME, CFS and Gulf War Syndrome. Showalter’s book, ‘Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture’, written after following Wessley’s research, suggests that ME, GWS and such things as claimed alien abductions are all equally part of a contemporary hysteria.

He played a leading part in the Chief Medical Officer’s Inquiry into ME/CFS between 1998 and 2002. Near the end of the inquiry the psychiatric aetiology contingent expressed strong concerns that the final report of the committees would underplay what they saw as the psychological nature of the condition. The final report advised that more funding should be given to the Medical Research Ccouncil to investigate ME and CFS. This funding was granted and the MRC commissioned Wessely’s colleagues to carry out the research. The funding was used to finance what have become known as the “PACE trials”. This research looked primarily at psychological treatments for the ‘psychiatric’ conditions of ME and CFS.

Current work

Wessely works in the most prestigious London units involved in psychiatric research. The GKT complex also encompasses the Institute of Psychiatry (IOP); Wessely’s department in the IOP is committed to, and working on, issues relating to the psychiatric aetiology of illness. He is also involved in the King’s College Centre for Risk Management (KCRM), which is researching the perceived health risks of mobile phones and masts.

The IOP receives funding from, among others, Unilever, SmithKline Beecham, Pfizer, Novartis, NPS Pharmaceuticals; Lilly Industries Ltd. (manufacturers of Prozac), Hoescht Marion Roussel, Glaxo-SmithKline (Seroxat), Bristol Myers Squibb, Bayer, Zeneca and Wyeth. Wessely himself has been employed or grant-aided by both the British Ministry of Defence and the US Defense Department. He has contributed to seminars and meetings at NATO on crisis management of public fears of terrorist incidents.

More recently, Wessley has started working alongside Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, the former Chief Medical Officer, who initiated the CMO’s report into ME/CFS, and to whom Dr Wakefield wanted to talk about the risks of MMR. Calman, now of Durham University, sits on the Advisory Panel to the All Party Group on Health. He is also Chairman of the Radiation, Risk and Society Advisory Group (R,RSAG), a body within the Health Protection Agency (HPA) that was set up in 2001 and of which Wessely is a member. The purpose of the group was to oversee and communicate the work of the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB).

In October 2004 the R,RSAG remit was extended to cover other departments of the HPA. The new group was managed by Lis Birrane, the HPA communications director. This leaves Wessley in a pivtal position in the principal organsiation communicating official science policy issues to the British public.

PRISMA chronic fatigue syndrome programme

Wessely is an adviser to PRISMA Health, which was founded in 1999 and began establishing its programme in Europe and North America. Its head office and the corporate staff are based in Essen, Germany, and its president in the year 2000 was George F. Thoma, a German managing partner at Shearman & Sterling, a global law firm with more than 1,000 lawyers based in the world’s financial capitals. Representatives of the US government and the most powerful corporations of North America, such as Monsanto, have visited the company’s offices in New York. Thoma is a member of the company’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and practises primarily in the areas of corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring and privatisations.

As adviser, he devised the CFS programme that PRISMA offers to insurance companies for those with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Opposition

Wessely’s research results and publicly-expressed views have caused ctronversy among those patient self-help groups who dispute that ME / CFS is primarily psychological. He has stated openly that members of such mutual support groups for ME and CFS are fooling themselves, refusing to face up to the reality that their illness is psychosomatic.

Gulf war syndrome sufferes claim that his connections with the military involve conflicts of interests, and his work on Gulf War syndrome is thus suspect.

Th R.RSAG has also been criticised as an apologist for the nuclear industry, and it is suggested that its education programmes are “propaganda”. Opinion on the issue of radiological safety is still strongly divided.

There is heated debate in the mediacl community regarding ME/CFS. One side of the debate consists of neurologists and endocrinologists who consider ME/CFS to be a neurological disease, as does the World Health Organisation that has classified neurological ME/CFS under ICD-10 G93.3. The other side of the debate, inclusing Wessely, considers it to be a somatisation disorder. There is evidence on both sides.

In 2003, under the auspices of the Canadian Government, a set of clinical criteria on ME/CFS wqs produced for use by physicians in diagnosis and treatment for this disease. The Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Clinical Working Case Definition, Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols are broadly supportive of the neurological disease school of thought, but British and US guidance is supportive of (and influenced by) Wessley’s views.

External links

  • ‘Skewed’ by Martin J. Walker. ISBN No. 0-9519646-4-X. Psychiatric hegemony and the manufacture of mental illness in Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • he Psychiatric Paradigm of ME/CFS by Angela Kennedy, of the One Click pressure group for ME/CFS patients
  • The PACE Report by Jane Bryant of the One Click group that reveals the workings of this psychiatric clinical trial that is to employ psychosocial treatments at the newly operational CFS/ME Centres with funding in excess of £11.1m
  • Consideration of some issues relating to the published views of Psychiatrists of the “Wessely School” in relation to their belief about the nature,cause and treatment of myalgic encephalomyelitis
  • The mental health movement: persecution of patients? A consideration of the role of Wesseley and other members of the Wesseley school in the perception of CFS in the UK

Note that the content is essentially the same, just not so openly polemical. I subsequently discovered that, for example, the PRISMA section was pretty much fantasy, with no obvious connection to the truth. Also, the One Click and PACE materials are grossly distorted and very, very biased.

The edit war rumbled on for some time, and probably continues still, since these people think Wessely is the Antichrist. I have by now exchanged a few emails with him, I have seen nothing to persuade me that he is anything other than sincere in wanting to help sufferers, I suspect that the root of the problem is that any suggestion that the cause is anything other than physical raises the bogeyman of “mental illness”. As anyone who has suffered depression, alcoholism or any other essentially mental illness will tell you, the disease is absolutely real and creates genuine measurable chemical effects, the distinction between mental and physical illness is largely spurious. Wessely’s point was that certain therapies appeared to help, and that was about it, really. The One-Clickers reject these therapies on ideological grounds, and hate Wessely with a passion because not only has he shown them to work, but he’s been widely published in the process.

Further reading