The ME community has, sadly, become accustomed to the claims of certain
psychiatrists alleging that CFS (the one-size-fits-all label they
prefer) is a "functional somatic syndrome" with the attendant
implication that patients are somehow psychologically weak and
susceptible to illness or illness-behaviour. Professor Peter White et
al, for example, not only reiterate such views but go on to propose
selecting and classifying such patients on the basis of genetic factors
in the September 2009 report of the European Science Foundation (ESF) /
European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) entitled: Understanding the
genetic, physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying disabling
medically unexplained symptoms and somatisation.
Even within an ME activist community that rightly cites thousands of
biomedical peer-reviewed papers to refute any claim that ME is a primary
psychiatric illness however, the notion of some form of "susceptibility"
within those who become ill is given currency by some on the basis of
genetic inheritance. This worries me because I believe that such views
are grossly over-simplistic and they assist our falling into the malign
hands of those who seek to profit from our illness not being genuinely
understood and cared for.
Whilst there is no doubt that differing genetic factors play some
complex role in illness incidence and prognosis, the cause and effect
relationship is not firmly established. Even though, for example, a
minority of those affected with HIV do not develop noticeable illness or
full-blown AIDS, it is in my view not practically useful to claim that
only those who are genetically susceptible get ill from contact with
HIV. To do so surely gives succour to Social-Darwinist or New-Age belief
systems? If anybody gets HIV it is a serious matter. If health
authorities advised that only those who are susceptible to AIDS should
avoid unprotected sex it would clearly be both ludicrous and irresponsible.
Human beings, including ME patients, that currently inhabit this planet
have earned the right to do so through aeons of evolutionary processes
and biological struggle. Humans are hardy and successful creatures.
Something extraordinary has however happened to the environment we live
in over the past 100 years or so other than the usual ebb and flow in
the war between bugs and mammalian immune-systems. The pathological
insults that all of us face (chemicals, processed-food, radiological,
novel bugs encountered through more travel and possibly bio-engineering,
etc, etc) have increased exponentially compared to what was encountered
a generation or so ago. Is it useful therefore to direct focus away from
such increased pathological insults by labelling those who develop a
whole range of resultant illness as genetically susceptible? I think
not. I also think that if we do so we are on a slippery slope and easy
prey to peddlers of malign agendas.
Speaking personally as an ME sufferer of some 25 adult years, I take
offence at being described as becoming ill due to any "susceptibility".
Since getting ME, my immune system has been clearly active and I have
now had two independent doctors/labs confirm I suffered a degree of
chemical poisoning. The particular chemicals have been identified and
the story of similarly identifying a bug or bugs involved is work in
progress. Before being ill I was happy, active, physically fit and led a
normal life. I liked to laze in the sun and I liked to climb mountains.
I did not regularly visit my doctor prior to getting ME and most
certainly did not suffer abuse as a child. In short, key predisposing
factors alleged by the psychiatric lobby to be statistically present in
ME (or "CFS") patients were absent in my case. I do not believe I got
ill because I was weak. I am quite certain I got ME because I was both
poisoned and infected.
In my humble opinion, the biggest "susceptibility" problem ME patients face is the susceptibility of much of the medical profession, media, government and research-funding agencies to evidence-ignoring
21 December 2010.
Permission to repost.
 Understanding the genetic, physiological and psychological
mechanisms underlying disabling medically unexplained symptoms and
 See for example: