Dr Elizabeth Dowsett "Betty" (1920 - 2012)
It is with great sadness we learnt of the death of Betty Dowsett on 14
June 2012 at an age of ninety one, in a nursing home in Cambridge, where
she had lived for some years.
Betty was born in Newport, Gwent, and studied medicine at Edinburgh
University.She worked as a general practitioner in London, and then
after further studies, became a consultant microbiologist.
It is well known that she had built up a huge and unique expertise in
ME, helping thousands of patients from the 1960s onwards.She worked
with the late Dr John Richardson, and the late Dr Melvin Ramsey, and
continued that thread of clinical and research interest in the times
when there was a general neglect of this patient group.
I first came into personal contact with Betty Dowsett during the 1980s,
when her thriving ME Support Group amalgamated with my NHS neurology
clinic at the old Harold Wood Hospital in Essex.
We both recognised that there was a paucity of care available in the
NHS, for many patients with ME. This lead us to set up the National ME
Centre as a diagnostic and support service, for those who were unable to
receive, at that time, appropriate advice through NHS services.
Betty Dowsett and I shared a commonality of thought about some aspects
of ME (you will note I do not use the word CFS on this occasion, out
of respect for her, because she felt it was an inappropriate diagnostic
term).What we shared was the conviction that even if a medical
condition, such as ME, was not understood in terms of underlying
mechanisms, those with ME should be offered advice and support, based
on the best evidence available at the time.In this regard Betty Dowsett
was an example of best clinical practice.
Betty Dowsett carried out her own unique and extensive research into
ME. I remember her impressive review of symptoms in a group of four
hundred patients with ME, which drew my attention of how common
neurological symptoms were part of the core phenomenology.
In addition, her work demonstrated the social impact of ME in young
patients, and the effect this had on their education.This research was a
beacon which catalysed changes in attitudes.
Unfortunately, in the modern era, most clinicians will only travel on a
comfortable road.Betty Dowsett was an individual who chose her own path,
if she felt it was in the interest of her patients.She was resistant to
what she perceived as unfair criticisms, argued vociferously at every
level for the welfare and interests of those who were unfortunate to
suffer with ME.
I understand from others that Betty promised Dr Melvin Ramsey before his
death, that she would continue his work.She kept that promise to the
very end.I was proud to have known her, and be associated with her.
Professor Leslie J Findley
Consultant Neurologist and
Essex Fatigue Services Ltd_