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This season I will suffer from...electrosensitivity -
According to gynaecologist Cees Renckens who is stepping down as
chairman of the association against quackery, less people are
suffering from 'fashionable illnesses'. But he remains vigilant.
'So-called illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, are difficult
to eradicate and new ones are cropping up all the time', he says in an
interview in Trouw.
Chronic whiplash and RSI are on the wane and so are most of the trendy
aches and pains that figured in Cees Renckens' 2004 thesis. It listed
pelvis instability, post natal depression, fibromyalgia and
premenstrual syndrome. 'We now see a lot of people with chronic Lyme
disease', he says. 'It's a label used by the alternative medicine
circuit to put on people who are inexplicably tired. 'You have chronic
Lyme', some quack tells them. Recognition at last, thinks the patient
who is then put on a weekly dose of antibiotics which won't do any
good and is expensive.'
Another newcomer, according to Renckens, is 'electrosensitivity
syndrome'. Victims claim that radiation from wireless electronic
equipment and mobiles causes a range of health problems, from poor
concentration to sweats and fatigue. But tests have shown that the
complaints persist even when the electronic equipment is turned off.
'It's tragic really', says Renckens. 'People do genuinely suffer and
they can get very angry if you take their diagnosis away. Some critics
have even received death threats.'
Fashionable illnesses are not difficult to recognise. They appear
suddenly and are limited to certain countries or areas. Sufferers are
mostly young women who have symptoms that are difficult to quantify,
like fatigue or listlessness. Doctors usually can't find anything
physically wrong with them. Once it becomes clear to doctors what they
are dealing with, the influx of patients usually comes to a halt.
'People don't like to be laughed at', Renckens says.
Renckens remembers one memorable case which nearly finished off the
association. The court ruled that calling orthomanual therapist Maria
Sickesz a quack was inadmissible. In 2009 the high court overturned
the verdict. Since then Sickesz, who claimed she could cure autism,
schizophrenia and a whole raft of other illnesses by manipulating
people's vertebras, can be officially called a quack.