August 27th, 2011
Recent articles in the British Medical Journal, the
Times and Sunday Times, Observer, Guardian,
Spectator etc., have highlighted *death threats*
directed at Professor Simon Wessely.
Wessely claims these threats are from ME patient
He also claims he is so frightened by these threats
that he feels safer when he is in Iraq or Afghanistan
than in the UK.
He adds that he is not joking, but is he serious?
In 2006 Wessely spoke at Gresham College about
Gulf War Syndrome. The late Gurli Bagnal
*One of the first points Simon made, was that he
was a little nervous because he had (quote):
*received some intimidatory threats suggesting that
it would be wise for me not to give the lecture…*
Under these circumstances, some of those who
attended the lecture were surprised that he brought
along his son who apparently was very visible
during the event. It would surely have been safer to
leave the boy at home.*
The OneClickGroup (2) observed:
*Wessely claimed he had received *intimidatory*
emails, and had reason to believe he would be
physically attacked. This, he said, was why he
considered not turning up, but he had changed his
mind at the last moment.*
This raises the question, why did he take his son
with him, a youngster whom spectators noted was
a boy of about 14 years old?
What parent, believing they were going into a
potentially dangerous situation would permit their
child to accompany them?
I cannot think of a single good reason to do such a
thing. Perhaps he took his son for protection,
believing that an aggressive person would balk at
violent action in front of a child?
Perhaps he had exaggerated the threat to give his
I cannot think of a reason that does not imply either
putting a child's safety at risk or catastrophizing a
threat for self-serving purposes.
If this well documented incident is typical of the
threats Wessely claims to receive then it raises
the question of how serious such threats actually
are and how seriously Wessely himself takes
There are many people working in professions
where threats and actual physical assaults occur.
As well as police officers, ambulance staff and
doctors and nurses working in Accident and
Emergency sometimes have to deal with unruly,
drunken and violent patients; some mental health
professionals including psychiatrists, *rationalize
that violence is an occupational hazard* (3); bus
drivers are subject to verbal and physical assaults
(4), almost one-third of traffic wardens experienced
physical assault in a period of 12 months and 10%
were attacked or threatened with a weapon (5);
90% of social workers have suffered abuse,
assaults and threats (6); teachers suffer from
abuse, threats, assaults and sexual assaults
(7-9)… the list could go on.
I am not aware of any incident of Professor
Wessely being physically assaulted by an ME
patient or patient advocate.
So why is Wessely so frightened that he feels safer
in Iraq or Afghanistan than here in Britain?
His claims about 'death threats' do not make
sense. If he is genuinely frightened then why would
he risk provoking those dangerous people with his
statements in the media?
And if he is not really frightened then what is his
motive in seeking such publicity?
Perhaps instead of x-raying his mail they ought to
x-ray his head – there might be a screw loose.