In November Prof Simon Wessely was awarded with the John Maddox Standing up for Science honour. The prize was created by the journal Nature and the charitable trust Sense about Science (Prof Wessely is one of its advisers). It was given to Professor Wessely for “courage” in speaking out about his studies into ME in the face a prolonged hate campaign and death threats.
On 25th Nov the Independent published an article reporting the opposition to the award expressed by critics of Prof Wessely, including Prof Malcolm Hooper, Dr William Weir and the Countess of Mar. They are said to accuse him of ignoring the research about ME, conducting ‘poor science’ and falsely portraying ME as a psychiatric condition. The online discussion following the article examines the disputed results and methods of the PACE trial, which Prof Wessely was involved in and challenging his claim that he has never said that ‘ME is all in the mind’ with quotes of his such as: “I will argue that ME is simply a belief, the belief that one has an illness called ME.”
On 2nd Dec a letter signed by 28 of Prof Wessely’s supporters was published in the Independent praising his pioneering research and regretting the allegations and harassment that Prof Wessely suffers.
On 4th Dec the Countess of Mar published an open letter to Prof Wessely online objecting to his claim of harrasment and explaining why she opposes his position. She has found him to:
- be ‘economical with the truth to put it mildly’;
- be ‘devious… in response to straightforward questions’;
- have ‘totally ignored the first exhortation to doctors – “First do no harm”;
- have ‘denigrated people with ME’;
- be inconsisent in what he says;
- have ‘totally failed to embrace the vast body of peer reviewed scientific literature that demonstrates damage to neurological, cardiac, endocrine and other systems in people with ME’;
- have ‘betrayed the trust’ of his patients;
- fail to ‘accept honest criticism’.
She asks why nobody has recovered from his treatment approach and why he needs to play the victim.