Talk:Simon Wessely

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This is a controversial topic, which may be disputed. Please read the talk page and discuss substantial changes there before making them.
Please read this message from William Pietri before piling in

odd shenanigans[edit]

I put in stuff about Wessely and cited his own writing and it got wiped and my comment on sciencewatchers page got wiped. I registered an account also but the schmuck didn't post on my page. Wessely wrote articles for UNUM- cited, He thinks soldier's shot at dawn shouldn't be pardoned- cited. Geez what is it with these people. Now the page is locked by some guy who thinks he's a wolf. Reads like some soviet style mantra to me at the moment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Catherine Sanderson (talkcontribs) 21:07, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

All these additions are very similar to the ones that used to come from a particular editor who was active in the summer of 2008, and was banned. It is unfortunate and a bit odd that you have chosen to bring these edits back, all at the same time. They were all discussed in a fair amount of detail. This talkpage and its archives should contain a record. I think reopening these discussions is not a good idea, and you are strongly advised to read important content guidelines such as WP:NPOV, WP:COATRACK and WP:BLP, before making any further changes. JFW | T@lk 00:10, 12 May 2011 (UTC)


So, what exactly is the point in having a opposition and criticism section without detailing what the (well documented) criticisms actually are? This article looks like it is being censored by Wessely supporters to me. G-13114 (talk) 00:08, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

You just need to remember this is a biography, so you can't just go putting in a whole bunch of rants from fringe groups - please read WP:BLP. The main criticism boils down to the fact that lots of patients simply don't like the idea that CFS might be psychiatric - we can say that if there is a source. All the other so-called criticisms seem to be conspiracy theories and ill-informed rants.
Also please stop saying that CBT/GET research is "by his own studies", as that is clearly WP:OR and WP:POV.
Also please assume good faith. Nobody here is a 'wessely supporter'. On the other hand there definitely seem to be a lot of Wessely bashers here. --sciencewatcher (talk) 15:24, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
I did put in sources. Which you removed. Which were well written and well reseached, not "ill-informed rants". If you had read them you would know this. Also it seems a bit odd to me that we have a section about criticism without stating what the criticisms are or who is making them, which is what I attemted to do before you reverted them. The fact remains that Mr Wessely and his views are extremely controversial. This article barely touches upon this. I'm sure there must be a wikipedia policy somewhere that says all aspects of a subject should be covered. Well having an article about Mr Wessely without covering the huge controversy he has generated must be in violation of it.
Also the criticism against him is not simply that. It is also that he and his supporters have ignored a vast body of evidence published in respected medical journals that ME/CFS is biological in origin. And exert a vastly dispropotionate influence upon the UK medical community, to the detriment of other avenues of research. G-13114 (talk) 16:32, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
If you can find a reliable source for those statements then you can add them to the article. A pressure group is not a reliable source for that kind of information. --sciencewatcher (talk) 18:52, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
Also, if you read WP:BLP it says "Criticism and praise should be included if they can be sourced to reliable secondary sources, so long as the material is presented responsibly, conservatively, and in a disinterested tone". --sciencewatcher (talk) 18:56, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) I can't say that I've been following these changes closely, and I would definitely say I'm closer to a Wessely basher than a supporter, but I have to agree with SW that there are more studies than just Wessely's own that indicate some benefit for CBT/GET. Of course, most of these studies fail to mention that the benefits are mild in most cases, comparable with the effects for other chronic illness, and often have numerous other flaws, but the benefits are still demonstrably there for some.
Due to the controversy that surrounds anything to do with CFS, I would suggest bringing up your proposed changes here on the talk page first so we can hash out the merits and/or issues around adding them to the page. Unfortunately, many CFS sites and forums take things as a given that haven't been proven in fact (which is why I avoid most of them, personally), but on Wikipedia, it's fact we have to document. By bringing up the proposed information here, we have a chance to investigate it and decide whether it's fact rather than getting into edit wars that only serve to make the environment more hostile. RobinHood70 talk 19:00, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
My suggestion: remove the Hooper ref and just use the Guardian, which is reasonably unbiased. I'd suggest paraphrasing the summary at the top of the Guardian article to describe the criticism. --sciencewatcher (talk) 19:02, 14 May 2011 (UTC)
My suggestion: sciencewatcher state whether he is for or against Mr. Wessely or totally indifferent. Only one TRUTHFUL answer would allow him to continue editing. All his edits read to me like he he is a big fan of Mr. W. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Catherine Sanderson (talkcontribs) 19:36, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

(undent) If a secondary source of similar quality to the Guardian article could be found, of course we would be duty bound to include it. JFW | T@lk 22:40, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

I don't believe the Guardian article is unbiased, that is you point of view. It reads like a whitewash to me. It has an interview with Wessely but no-one from the other side. I've found this article also from the Guardian which does a better job of describing the controversy I'd prefer that that was used instead of the current one. Also I believe that the Hooper ref proves that the views of the anti Wessely people have influence within the medical community, and are not confined to the "lunatic fringe". G-13114 (talk) 02:50, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

Based on the 2010 Guardian article, the only things one can say about Wessely are:

  • There is internet vitriol directed at him (hmm, that sounds familiar)
  • He believes there may be viral triggers, but psychosocial therapies may help
  • He ran the studies on which the NICE guidelines are based
  • He started the first NHS treatment unit
  • He co-authored a study that failed to find XMRV, but the results are not accepted by ME/CFS activists for that reason

An excellent source, but it should be added to the article rather than replace the Burne article. They are complimentary. JFW | T@lk 08:24, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

that is a very sensible thing to do. To include both sources. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Catherine Sanderson (talkcontribs) 20:33, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

I would argue that the criticism section is also currently in violation of WP:WEASEL. With phrases like "critics say" (who?). Currently all we have is a vague assertion that Wessely has been criticised (by whom, about what?) Should it not be made clear who exactly the critics of Wessely are? This is also what I was trying to do before my additions were reverted. G-13114 (talk) 07:12, 16 May 2011 (UTC)

The article should reflect which charities support or oppose Wessely's work. ie if you were doing research into cancer you' be in big doo doo if Cancer Research found your work totally unacceptable. Most of the ME charities from the MEAssociation through to the 25% group don't support Wessely's research and see it as irrelevant to patients. So you gotta have that in!
See ya- Catherine —Preceding unsigned comment added by Catherine Sanderson (talkcontribs) 16:24, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
@Catherine: How is who supports or opposes Wessely encyclopedic? RobinHood70 talk 18:25, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
RobinHood70, What we currently have is: CFS patient activist groups have strongly criticized Wessely.[26] In an article on chronic fatigue syndrome, The Guardian calls criticism from CFS patient advocates a "vendetta".[27]. Which patient activist groups? Criticised him about what? Is this not in clear violation of WP:WEASEL which states:
Phrases such as these present the appearance of support for statements but can deny the reader the opportunity to assess the source of the viewpoint. They are referred to as "weasel words" by Wikipedia contributors. They can pad out sentences without adding any useful information and may disguise a biased view. Claims about what people say, think, feel, or believe, and what has been shown, demonstrated, or proven should be clearly attributed
G-13114 (talk) 18:50, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
That's a different issue from discussing which charities support or oppose Wessely's work. I think the article could use a lot of help with some of its wordings, but I was specifically addressing Catherine's side-point of charities. RobinHood70 talk 19:19, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
I gotta use words when I'm talking to you but it's a bit hard if you don't understand them batman robin. Lack of charity support for Wessely is hardly a side issue- right or wrong. I mean think just stop and think. Right you thought about it? You know you can't have an article on Wessely that doesn't mention the fact most charities and patients don't like him and don't support his work. He's the sheriff of Nottingham to the Leonard Jason Robin Hood.
So his not being liked has to go in. Also Wessely himself reports receiving large volumes of hate mail see here: if he was doing some good folk would send him nice things :-) but instead they probably would like to post a brownie to him which is very wrong.
See ya all- Catherine —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:11, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
Catherine(?) - if you're going to be rude to people, you'll just be banned (again?). WHO WAS I RUDE TO WHAT DO YOU MEAN (AGAIN?) MISTER?- CATHERINE
Nobody is denying that we should include this info - it's just a question of finding a source that doesn't violate WP:RS or WP:BLP. I had a look at the 2010 Guardian article, but it doesn't really say much about Wessely - just that there is 'internet vitriol', but it doesn't explain why. The 2002 Guardian article seems to go into more detail. --sciencewatcher (talk) 21:32, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
Agreed. There's nothing wrong with saying that he's not well-respected in the CFS community (to put it mildly), but creating a list of the specific charities who oppose or support him is rather unencyclopaedic to my way of thinking. As SW said, a source that outlines some of the criticism and/or critics—which may or may not name individuals or charities specifically—is what is needed here. In other words, it's one thing to say "Wessely's critics include numerous individuals, charities, and organizations<ref>some reference</ref>" but it's really not very useful or encyclopaedic as part of a short, general biography to say "Wessely's critics include laundry list of people each with a reference to prove it, laundry list of charities each with a reference to prove it, laundry list of organizations each with a reference to prove it". RobinHood70 talk 02:06, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

This is the value of secondary sources such as the Guardian articles. I personally think the 2010 article is entirely appropriate and quite informative, as long as we stick to the five things that I listed above. As concerning the possible WP:WEASEL problems, it is very easy to lift the name of actual critics such as Hooper from the article. Opinions collectively held by anonymous bodies are slightly less helpful unless they have made official statements that are then reproduced in secondary sources. JFW | T@lk 13:20, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

If I was going to cut it down, I'd say that we should include the views of Malcolm Hooper and the Countess of Mar. As she is patron of several of the most outspoken ME charities I'd say her views were quite representative of them. G-13114 (talk) 13:42, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

We would need an airtight reference for Margaret Mar, especially after Turnberg of Cheadle stated that her statement in the Lords amounted to slander if not said inside the House. JFW | T@lk 14:19, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

Can we include that some say he told Guy Chapman he was being harassed by Angela Kennedy and that Wessely's boss refused to deny or confirm whether he had or not?- no thought not but it is on all the forums with Guy Chapman's comments look: Catherine
I strongly doubt that. This is a clear example where a secondary source is not available (and blogs are definitely not reliable sources). We've had endless discussions over this, and over certain statements in the Gibson report that could not be directly verified. It should be left out. JFW | T@lk 20:52, 17 May 2011 (UTC)
For anyone interested, see here. Catherine, we all know you are really Angela Kennedy, and if you don't stop this stupid shenanigans you're just going to get banned again. You are just wasting everyone's time with this nonsense. --sciencewatcher (talk) 21:23, 17 May 2011 (UTC)
Mr. Wolff, you say "I doubt that" but Guy is the one who claims Wessely told him he was being harassed by Angela. As it happens I've also seen the original correspondence from Angela to IOP. So the blog is accurate. So I just wondered what you doubted Jacob? I'm not Angela by the way, I'm Catherine Sanderson my bio is on my talk page. You did however want sources regarding Vendettas so I found them for you sciencewelcher, so spread some comment luv! Catherine —Preceding unsigned comment added by Catherine Sanderson (talkcontribs) 21:42, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

This has gone far enough. I had to remove the entire correspondence with the IOP again. I think Catherine has sufficienty exposed herself as being a One Click sock- or meatpuppet, and I have applied a suitable block. We have been over this so many times that it becomes tiresome. We always get the same lame character assassination, muckracking and dredging from an anonymous angry mob. Wikipedia has clear policies that prohibit all these things, because it is an encyclopedia and not a blog, messageboard, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or whereever there is acrimony against a scientist trying to do his job. This talkpage will also be protected against non-autoconfirmed edits in view of previous disruption. JFW | T@lk 22:00, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

Thank you! While you're doing admin things anyway, some of the last couple of edits (SW's post and Catherine's reply) might need Revision deletion, as I believe they would violate WP:OUTING, even though they're technically speculative. Or perhaps Revision deletion followed by re-posting the non-outing portions of their messages? RobinHood70 talk 22:17, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

The editor AK has previously edited here under her own name before being banned. I don't think they would therefore qualify as outing. If either Sciencewatcher or Catherine wants these posts scrubbed, they are free to make that request. JFW | T@lk 22:31, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

Okay, fair enough. I wasn't sure what policy was for that, and neither the outing or RD pages were particularly clear. RobinHood70 talk 23:55, 17 May 2011 (UTC)

Problems with G-13114's edits[edit]

- "while their have been threats against his life" doesn't make grammatical sense, and the previous version seems to be more npov and more closely matches the source. We should use 'extremists' because it isn't the average CFS patient who is doing this.

- putting a tag inside a direct quote doesn't seem correct.

- putting a tag inside the title of an article doesn't seem correct.

- tagging the entire opposition section seems to be pov.

The fact is that all this stuff is very well sourced. The fact that some patients don't believe Wessely has had threats against his life is irrelevant to wikipedia. If he says there have been threats against his life, then we put it in the article - it doesn't matter that he hasn't said exactly who those threats are from.

The only problem I noticed was the Hooper reference for 'activists'. Perhaps we need a better source for that, or maybe just more sources. --sciencewatcher (talk) 16:22, 1 October 2011 (UTC)

Page updates September 2012[edit]

Added more references and details YellowFratello (talk) 19:09, 16 September 2012 (UTC)

CFS Section is Extremely Confusing[edit]

I came to this page from WP:TIGER with no idea who Wessely was, and only a cursory knowledge of CFS. As a reader coming to this subject for the first time, the section on CFS is very hard to follow. I know that this article is heavily debated, so rather than attempt any changes (especially since I have little knowledge of the subject) I would like to present some areas I think need improvement.

  1. The first paragraph seems to indicate that Wessely was an important factor in mainstream recognition of CFS as a legitimate illness, but doesn't actually spell this out; I am not sure if this is actually the case or not. Also, in "Other work on CFS included [things related to CFS]" it is not entirely clear who the "other work" was also carried out by (I'm assuming by Wessely but I'm not sure).
  2. The second paragraph begins "Wessely and his colleagues also developed a rehabilitation strategy for patients that involved cognitive behavioral and graded exercise therapy; " and then goes off a (long!) tangent about CFS studies for no discernible reason. If some or all of the studies mentioned were conducted by Wessely it should be indicated as such. If they weren't, then I don't know what they are doing in the middle of this section.
  3. The third paragraph seems to just be a very long way of saying "Wessely thinks CFS is largely psychological rather than physical". While this may be true, it does not describe work performed by Wessely, and as such doesn't really fit in a section titled "Work on CFS".
  4. The subsection on criticism opens with a lengthy paragraph about Wessely's reaction to some controversy, without first introducing what the controversy was. This is extremely jarring as the entire preceding section gives no indication that Wessely's work was controversial in any way (the last sentence states he got a medal!). It really needs to be spelled out that his view that CFS is predominantly psychological is highly controversial, and this paragraph should be placed after that.
  5. The next paragraph (finally!) hints that Wessely's views and works are controversial, but still falls WAY short of conveying just how much anger and ill-will they stir up.
  6. The closing paragraph indicates that Wessely is extremely unpopular among CFS patients and activist groups, but does not explain why. It makes very little sense when read straight after the preceding section on his work, where he got CFS recognised, set up an NHS treatment program, helped some sufferers, and got a medal for it.

In addition to the issues with the content above, the prose itself is quite convoluted and could use work. Most of the sentences are overly long, and quite a few suddenly change topic in the middle. I am happy to contribute on that front, but I need to understand what certain parts actually mean first. Bungeh (talk) 14:03, 14 March 2012 (UTC)

Thank you, that is exactly what I was saying a while ago if you read the earlier discussions. I tried to give an overview of why he was controversial in this edit but certain people it seems want to censor any criticism on spurious grounds! In it's current form, I have argued that this article is in clear violation of WP:WEASEL but I really haven't had the patience to do much about it. G-13114 (talk) 14:49, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
It's not that people want to censor criticism, it's just that you can't put in a bunch of rants from a advocacy group as that would be a violation of policies. The OP is right - we don't explain the criticism and controversy. I'd suggest putting in a reference from a reliable third party such as a medical journal, maybe as the first sentence of the opposition and criticism section. We can maybe just add more info from some of the existing refs. Oh, and I notice that the Times link is broken (ref 27). --sciencewatcher (talk) 15:25, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
The lack of details to the alluded controversy was one of the first things I noticed about this article when I visited back in 2008: "When I click on a controversial figure at Wikipedia, I expect to see what they said and why it's considered controversial. I can find out exactly what controversial comments James Watson made about race and intelligence, but on Wessely and CFS all I see is some vague sentence about psychological factors. The background which the reader should know about is essentially omitted, and the current article seems to understate the situation and related criticisms."[1]
The messy state of the content reflects a long history of disagreement over this article. There exists a policy on the biographies of living persons, but there has also been disagreement over what constitutes a valid source and neutral wording. So it has become a hodgepodge of semi-random points. The long tangent about other CFS studies was probably a response to a previous lack of references and some editor(s) attempts to demonstrate that Wessely's hypothesis is valid despite all the criticism. The Lancet interview used to be at the bottom of the section after details about the opposition, which made more sense.
It is difficult to find relevant sources which Wikipedia would regard as quality, not that I have spent much effort doing so. Wikipedia is a systematic reflection of the status quo, so it helps to realise that IRL the ME/CFS community are severely unrepresented and their plights or opinions are frequently dismissed as unimportant. Mainstream sources don't really go into it much, and when they do, journalists have tended towards appealing to Wessely's presumed expertise on CFS rather than seeking the community's opinions about the controversy.
As a side note, I saved this source when it was removed from a CFS related subarticle: <ref>Sardar, Ziauddin “Ill-defined notions” ''New Statesman'' 5 February 1999 []</ref>
_Tekaphor (TALK) 04:00, 21 April 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately the accusations made by Wessely's detractors are specifically (and demonstrably) contradicted by himself and his research. That makes it very hard to be specific and reasonable here. Sadar's article is pretty hostile and tendentious, incidentally. JFW | T@lk 22:00, 21 April 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────All of them? Some are confirmed and in the article already! Occasional and superficial misinterpretations of Wessely's writing style (ambiguous guilt by association) does not change the fact that he is a controversial figure who is opposed by a sigificant proportion of the patient community, nor does the harsh tone of their criticism change the fact that opposition is occuring. Wikipedia isn't supposed to be into censorship, is it? Ironically it isn't about the truth either, so what if Sardar's article can be interpreted as "hostile and tendentious"? I wouldn't exactly call Wessely's speculations about the characteristics of CFS patients or his critics the hallmark of neutrality either.

Fortunately, some of the accusations made by Wessely's detractors are specifically and demonstrably confirmed in a more general sense by himself and his research papers (eg, some are already in the article, such as the now infamous BMJ quote straight from the horse's (or zebra's?) mouth, if he found a virus he wouldn't do anything about it because he is in the business of rehabilitation, another example being "viral attribution is somatization par excellence" (even when a virus triggered the symptoms), these are viewed as classic Wesselyisms amongst the patient community.

Not only would going through all those papers be a colossal effort, but I'm fairly certain that doing so for purposes of Wikipedia would be met with accusations of "quote mining" and "trying to make Wessely look bad" regardless whether edits met WP:RULES, as this has been done before here. As primary sources direct from the ME/CFS community are rejected at Wikipedia, the default source tends to be news articles. Controversial issues are controversial for a reason, but unfortunately, Wessely and uninformed journalists rarely bother going further than the pathetic and somewhat insulting "naive Cartesian dualism" and "stigma of mental illness" strawmen and red herrings used against patients or advocates to distract away from their genuine scientific objections and concerns about their health. - Tekaphor (TALK) 02:08, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

John Maddox prize[edit] --sciencewatcher (talk) 20:16, 7 November 2012 (UTC)

The entry contains some important biographical details. JFW | T@lk 23:06, 7 November 2012 (UTC)
I've added a little clarification as to why the prize was awarded, which I think is important to clarify. I believe it's worded neutrally, but it may be a bit awkwardly worded—I couldn't think of anything better. I've also added a {{When}} tag to the first part of the sentence, as I think it's important to note that the medal was for work that's nearly a decade old by this point, maybe even more. RobinHood70 talk 23:30, 10 November 2012 (UTC)
Not sure that is accurate. If you look both on google scholar and on Wessely's own website, you'll see he has published papers on CFS this year and last year. I think maybe he just isn't doing as much CFS research as he used to, but he's certainly still doing it. --sciencewatcher (talk) 02:17, 11 November 2012 (UTC)
I'm not surprised that he's still doing the research, but the medal was given in 2003 or earlier (based on the fact that the letter mentioned in Hansard was dated August 2003) for his research up to that point. Similarly, as I understood the article, the Maddox prize was given for continuing to support a neuropsychiatric aetiology despite the threats to his life during the confusion with XMRV ("the prize recognizes the very public stand that Wessely has taken over these issues", and in this article, "Shi-min Fang and Simon Wessely win award for standing up for science in the face of attacks and death threats."), it wasn't given for the research itself. RobinHood70 talk 04:54, 11 November 2012 (UTC)
I was confused for a bit, but I see the medal is unrelated to the Maddox prize. Never mind. --sciencewatcher (talk) 16:51, 11 November 2012 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I've added this sentence sourced from the Independent: "Some scientists contend he should be stripped of the award for conducting "very poor science." JustinReilly (talk) 04:20, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

The Maddox award was very clearly for being a scientist who sticks to their guns despite attacks. It was awarded by a panel that includes the current editor of Nature, the widow of the ex-editor Brenda Maddox and the director of Sense about science and an ex-CE of the MRC. AGF but some of the edits could have been suggesting that this was a stitch up because the noble? Doctor is associated with Sense about Science. This guy is controversial to some of course but we need a good balanced article in the best tradition of Wikipedia. The fairly duff Indy piece just goes over old ground to no effect. YellowFratello (talk) 16:00, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Yes, we do need a balanced article, which means we can't gloss over the fact that he had a previous association with those who awarded the prize. Even if it's not some kind of collusion, there's an inherent bias to giving an international award to someone you've worked with and presumably therefore have developed a friendship, or at least a working relationship, with. That sort of bias would be ridiculed as non-neutral here on Wikipedia if someone that involved was editing an article, so it makes sense to me to mention it in the article as well. Also, whether it's old ground or not, the article discusses the long-standing debate between both sides; I think it's inappropriate to exclude it just because it's old ground. Yes, there are a couple of names we see going up against Wessely's views time and time again...but then again, we also see Simon Wessely's name going up against the more biophysical views time and time again, so that's really a moot point. RobinHood70 talk 20:15, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the typo corrections RobinHood70! Not sure the Independent piece is worth relying on - wonder what other think? Countess of Mar does not seem to be a scientist let alone an authoritative scientific source. The House of Lords is a strange place at the best of times. Perhaps Canada is more sane? The Independent's reputation has declined dramatically recently, not sure this piece is worthy of citation.YellowFratello (talk) 20:46, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
The Independent article is dredging up old cows. Hooper & Mar have been the standard detractors in many previous fora.
As for the Maddox Prize, I think we need a secondary source before we can make any mention of a possible conflict of interest. JFW | T@lk 22:35, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
Removing legitimate mention of the controversy covered in a major national newspaper on the rather spurious grounds mentioned above would not be acceptable no IMHO, more paranoid minds might see that as attempted censorship of legitimate criticism! G-13114 (talk) 23:22, 30 December 2012 (UTC)
YellowFratello: I can't say much about the British House of Lords, either generally or the Countess of Mar specifically (though since our parliament is based on the UK parliament, overall it's about as zany as you mention <g>). My understanding is that she's not a scientist, but I have no hard facts one way or the other. Hooper's a little harder to dismiss in that regard, though. As far as Canada being more sane, I can't say. We certainly take a more biological approach overall, though there are still many here who favour some form of psychiatric or mixed approach as well. Only time will tell which one is the more "sane" approach.
But back to the issue at hand, truthfully, outside of CFS circles, nobody here has ever heard of Simon Wessely, and his winning a prize didn't merit so much as a word from local news sources or any of the medical journals that are publicly accessible (or at least not that I found in a quick search). I suspect the UK sources, however reliable or unreliable they may be, are all we're going to be able to use. RobinHood70 talk 01:58, 31 December 2012 (UTC)


The Nature article on the Maddox prize[2] mentions that Wessely is the son of Holocaust survivors. Worth including? JFW | T@lk 22:35, 30 December 2012 (UTC)

Changes to article[edit]

I think this article could use a couple changes. Right now, the section on Military Health starts out as follows- "More recently, Wessely's work was the first to show that service in the 1991 Gulf War had had a significant effect on the health of UK servicemen and women. Other work suggested a link to particular vaccination schedules used to protect against biological warfare, and also a link with psychological stress. His group also confirmed that classic psychiatric injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), was not a sufficient explanation for the observed health problems. He and his colleagues in the medical school showed persisting evidence of immune activation, but failed to show that exposure to organophosphate or cholinesterase inhibitor agents had caused chronic neurological damage. The group also showed that many veterans who left the Armed Forces with persisting mental health problems have found it difficult to access National Health Service (NHS) services.[citation needed]

This work, Wessely's evidence to the Lloyd Inquiry,[34] and the work of other investigators was crucial in categorising Gulf War Syndrome as a verifiable consequence of service in the Gulf. As a result, affected Gulf War veterans were able to receive war pensions.[35]"

In my opinion, this section is incomplete and does not jibe with the references given. Reference #35- (New Scientist) states that "Wessely favours psychological explanations for Gulf war illnesses. The only thing that could have affected so many different people, he says, was stress, especially anxiety about chemical weapons, misinformation about Gulf war syndrome afterwards, and the many vaccinations Gulf troops received." Not only does Wessely 'favour psychological explanations for Gulf war illnesses', he doesn't even believe Gulf War Syndrome exists as a distinct entity to begin with but rather favors some sort of Gulf War 'health effect' and that the question of whether Gulf War Syndrome exists as a discrete entity at all is merely 'a statistical and technical question that's of minor interest.' See-

Regarding the part about Wessely being instrumental in Gulf War vets receiving war pensions, the New Scientist states that "But as British and US witnesses told the Lloyd inquiry, if there were recognised definitions for a service-induced syndrome, many Gulf veterans - some 60,000 in the US, and several thousand in the UK - would be able to claim pensions more easily". If pensions were given based on there being a distinct Gulf War Syndrome, as stated in the reference, how was Wessely instrumental in vets receiving pensions if he is on record as saying that "But they are just experiencing more ill health. There is no unique syndrome here"?

For a second change, would it work to have the section on 'Opposition and criticism' be it's own section following the CFS and Military Health sections and not just part of the CFS section? In his testimony to the Lloyd Gulf War Inquiry, Robert Haley specifically called out the work of Kings College (where Simon Wessely is director of King's Centre for Military Health Research) as being "The most important example of the unproductive use of a nonspecific case definition concocted after the fact", and that "this severe degree of bidirectional misclassification has caused all studies from the Kings College London group to reach spuriously negative conclusions". This is some pretty significant criticism and should be included in the article IMO, however should both the CFS and Gulf War sections be followed by their own Opposition and criticism section or should all of the opposition and criticism be in its own section?

Full quote from Haley re: Kings College Gulf War research- "Studies using nonspecific definitions of Gulf War neurological syndrome are biased toward finding negative results. Early in the history of Gulf War illness research, around 1993, a decision was made in the government to the effect that “there is no Gulf War syndrome,” and this led to pressure on researchers who wanted government funding not to use a case definition of the illness in their research. Without at least a provisional case definition, however, it is virtually impossible to design studies that will elucidate the nature of the illness, or illnesses, and connect them with causes. This unfortunate government decision is arguably the main reason for the delay in progress in this research field. Finally, when a few studies bucked the policy and used provisional case definitions successfully to make promising discoveries, research groups that had performed expensive population surveys without a case definition in mind attempted either to prove that no case definition was possible or to concoct case definitions after the fact from data collected earlier, even when the collected data were insufficient for defining a case definition. The most important example of the unproductive use of a nonspecific case definition concocted after the fact was the series of studies from the Kings College London group. In place of a case definition describing the disease that veterans were complaining of, they defined Gulf War illness as having a score of greater than 72.2 on the SF-36 questionnaire, which measures functional impairment regardless of the cause. This case definition essentially counted veterans as having Gulf War illness if they had any condition that caused them to feel bad. Consequently, many veterans with diseases other than Gulf War neurological syndrome that made them feel bad were mistakenly counted as cases, and conversely, many with typical symptoms of Gulf War neurological syndrome but who were not very ill with it were not counted as cases. This severe degree of bidirectional misclassification has caused all studies from the Kings College London group to reach spuriously negative conclusions."

Robert W. Haley, M.D
Testimony to the Gulf War Illnesses Public Inquiry (Lloyd Inquiry)
August 3, 2004 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Beanier (talkcontribs) 18:46, 1 January 2013 (UTC)

First, I hope you don't mind, but I added a small amount of formatting to your post to make it look more like what I believe you intended. I can't comment on much of your post other than to say that I think you have a point about making sure we're being clear about what exactly Wessely's position is. As far as the "Opposition and criticism" section goes, I'd have no problems separating it back out. It used to be its own section a long time ago, but it ultimately became entirely focussed on CFS, so I moved it to be a subsection back in October 2009. If we're expanding that section to encompass more than just CFS again, it makes sense to move it back to its own primary section. RobinHood70 talk 20:57, 1 January 2013 (UTC)

Article and talk page under semi-protection?[edit]

I understand there has been a lot of BLP vandalism on the article and talk page, but is it strictly necessary that both are under semi-protection? I resolved some useful feedback left on the article where the user had tried to edit the page in good faith, been presented with a "Submit an edit reuqest" link, and then was unable to edit the talk page because it is also semi-protected.

According to Wikipedia:Protection policy, "Talk pages are not usually protected, and are only semi-protected for a limited duration in the most severe cases of vandalism." The talk page has now been under semi-protection since May 2011. I'm going to unprotect the talk page and, if there is consensus, perhaps switch the article from semi-protection to pending changes. —Tom Morris (talk) 16:18, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

I think pending changes would be a good move, for this article. bobrayner (talk) 16:21, 2 January 2013 (UTC)
Tom, before you go too quick, please be aware that this article for a while served as an attack page, had to blanked by Jimbo, and was then carefully rebuilt in the face on repeated protestations from particular quarters. Contributors to this article have been attacked on-wiki and elsewhere. Can I recommend a very circumspect approach here? JFW | T@lk 21:00, 2 January 2013 (UTC)
I've certainly seen some of those attacks off-wiki. I think pending changes solves the problem of allowing people to contribute to both the article page and the talk page while discouraging the vandalism. We can certainly switch it back to semi-protection if problems start up again. —Tom Morris (talk) 22:50, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

Camelford water pollution incident[edit]

This page should mention the Camelford water pollution incident in relation to Wessely in the criticism section. In 1995, Wessely wrote an editorial entitled "The Legend of Camelford: Medical Consequences of a Water Pollution Accident" in which he suggested that ongoing reports of symptoms were largely due to anxiety and heightened perception of normal somatic symptoms being misattributed to poisoning, and that further health monitoring of the population was unnecessary. Since then, several deaths and illnesses have been linked to the aluminum exposure, and dead villagers were found to have extremely high levels of aluminum in their brain.


Describes the medical consequences of a "legendary" environmental accident in the Cornish town of Camelford, the site of an accidental deposit of 20 tons of aluminum sulfate into a water supply in 1988. Events subsequent to the accident are recounted to explore why, despite lack of evidence of long-term health effects of brief aluminum contamination, some people suffered and complained for years afterward. It is argued that the most likely explanation of these complaints is that the perception of normal and benign somatic symptoms among residents and health professionals was heightened and attributed to an external, physical cause. Other influences, including perceived increases in anxiety-related symptoms, somatization disorders, and subsequent litigation are discussed. Future investigations of environmental incidents should recall that social and cultural factors are as important as medical ones in shaping public concern

— Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:38, 21 April 2014 (UTC)

I fixed your links to the formatting I think you probably wanted. Your suggestion is what's called original research. You've taken several facts and strung them together to come to a conclusion that none of your sources directly support. Yes, there was an incident; yes, Wessely was part of writing the paper you noted; yes, based on the news link that was in your original post, he was wrong and there were genuine physical causes. That's not criticism of Wessely, though. Doctors make mistakes, and let's face it, Wessely is rather famous for attributing illnesses to somatization, but unless there's an article in a newspaper that talks about the residents being up in arms against him, or an investigation into his involvement in this, or something along those lines, then we can't put it onto the page. RobinHood70 talk 04:20, 22 April 2014 (UTC)
I had no idea about this until I had a look there now. It appears there was a final report in 2013 which concluded that the incident was unlikely to have caused any long-term health effects. So it looks like Wessely could have been right after all. (Note that people dying of dementia, or having aluminium in their brains is not proof that the water poisoning caused the deaths).
On another note, I see that the wikipedia article of this incident has no mention of this 2013 report, and the entire article looks pretty POVish. If anyone is has the time and energy, it might be worth updating the article.
Perhaps I should start reading oneclick again for the entertainment value. --sciencewatcher (talk) 04:39, 22 April 2014 (UTC)
Entertainment? You're just weird. Guy (Help!) 12:07, 22 April 2014 (UTC)

Use of the term `extremists`[edit]

Wessely has been the subject of numerous threats and personal attacks, and extremists have even made threats to his life.

This statement (in particular the use of the term 'extremist') while accurate and informative is a value-laden statement, can anyone imagine better wording? — Preceding unsigned comment added by ZephyrP (talkcontribs) 22:03, 14 February 2015 (UTC)

I was responsible for the word "extremists" being used ([3]), though most of the rest of the sentence was already in place. In the cited source, within the first paragraph alone, they describe those making the threats as "activists", "militants", and "extremists". As I noted when I made the change, I can't support changing it to just "activists", since the run-of-the-mill activist doesn't go making death threats. The other two terms fit, but I don't think "militants" is any better or worse than "extremists". I'm open to changing the wording if you can find something better, just as long as it doesn't do what the article did in a few places and make it sound like everyone who defends the biological view of CFS is a sociopath. Robin Hood  (talk) 04:50, 15 February 2015 (UTC)
I think 'extremists' is fine.JustinReilly (talk) 04:30, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
According to the guideline on the subject, 'extremist' is a term that should be avoided without very good reason. G-13114 (talk) 16:13, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Agreed, it's definitely not a term to use lightly. What the guideline states, though, is not to use the term unless the supporting material does as well. In this case, "extremist" is the term used most often in the relevant article. While a direct quote would be ideal, as suggested in the guideline, the entire first paragraph seems a bit much to quote. Besides which, as I said above, that paragraph confounds the terms "activist" and "extremist", implying that they're one and the same, which I don't think is a mistake we should be repeating. Activists vocalize their objections; extremists threaten to kill people over their objections. I don't think the term is entirely uncalled for when death threats are involved. Robin Hood  (talk) 17:20, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
Agree. No scientific debate functions when death threats and other kinds of stalking take place. "Extremists" is entirely appropriate. JFW | T@lk 21:15, 25 June 2015 (UTC)
What supporting material? I don't know of any evidence that supports the statement, and it has been investigated many times. Cheers, The Jolly Bard (talk) 21:10, 29 June 2015 (UTC)


I'm not proposing to make any changes to the article, but I want to make some points I hope future editors may bear in mind. (I should probably make clear that I am not a member of the ME/CFS patient community, but it falls close enough to my own disability for me to have followed the story over the past couple of decades).

As a disability rights activist it's disturbing to see major patient groups dismissed as 'fringe' and smeared together with 'extremists'. That's a problematic position for balance. The discussion on the talk page seems very much to hold to the old view of the doctor as the professional who must never be questioned when he descends from the ivory tower to deliver his prognosis to the forelock tugging peasants, while modern theory holds out for best practise as a partnership with the patient, particularly with 'expert patients' who are able to discuss and participate in their treatment on an informed basis, and who may well be better informed than most medical professionals for less common syndromes - such as ME/CFS.

Patient expert groups, many of which have their own medical experts, should be accorded a degree of respect, not dismissed as fringe, particularly not groups well respected enough to be called to give evidence before the UK Parliament's Select Committee on Health. Such a group's evidence, and the Select Committee's reporting of it, would seem to far surpass some of the secondary sources regularly considered to meet Wiki's standards for acceptable, even expert, sources.

The difficulties between Simon Wessely and the ME/CFS patient community fell far short of 'best practise' and partnership. Wessely has in fact admitted his own behaviour was problematic, the article quotes him as saying so. But the opposition is given no credit for that, even its evidence to Parliament is labelled 'a vendetta'. Even were every one of Wessely's theories on ME/CFS to be proven, Wessely's professional behaviour towards his patient group would be open to question.

Turning back to the patient groups such as the ME Association, the reporting of their positions falls far short of adequate or balanced. The controversy wasn't solely around the physical or psychological nature of ME/CFS as the article currently implies. Wessely and his research group convinced the NHS to support _only_ CBT/GET as a treatment for ME/CFS. Meanwhile the position of many within the patient community, including the ME Association, was that there was considerable evidence that GET was not just ineffective, but actively dangerous. Patients were genuinely scared of the treatment Wessely was not just pushing, but had caused to be the only treatment available. The article completely fails to give that context. Threats to Wessely are indefensible, but the article also needs to make it clear that any threats that emerged from within the patient community (and there has never been clear evidence that they did), would have come from people who themselves felt that Wessely was a clear danger to their health. We need to be very carefully about labelling someone who was potentially both seriously ill and frightened for their life as 'an extremist' without presenting any of the nuance of the situation. Yet that's what the article does right now.

The article does note that Wessely has said that he is uninterested in physical causes, but fails to recognise the implications that follow through from this. Wessely's dominance of the NHS position on ME/CFS hasn't just constrained treatment, but also research. I'm aware of several cases, at least one published in a peer-reviewed medical journal where patients with longstanding ME/CFS diagnoses have subsequently been reclassified as having mitochondrial disease. A purely psychiatric approach to ME/CFS is very unlikely to spot the misdiagnosis, and the deprecation of research into physical causes makes it more difficult to pursue research to determine whether a significant part of the patient population may have been misdiagnosed. (That's too close to Own Research to stand in an article, I'm purely using it to point out there's a complexity of consequences the article doesn't capture)

Note that I'm not dismissing all value of Wessely's position, I've had CBT treatment myself, and there is applicability for it in the management of physical conditions, but not as the sole treatment, and not when denying the physical cause. In fact watching other people have the sa,e treatment emphasised how very careful the medics have to be to acknowledge the physical cause in order for the patient to believe they were being taken seriously.

Finally, the article fails to report that the primary evidence for Wessely's CBT/GET protocol as a treatment, the PACE trial of GET, has now been convincingly called into question, with calls for it to be withdrawn published in the Lancet under the signature of multiple experts. This followed an investigation which showed multiple flaws in both the medical and statistical design of the (non-blind) PACE trial, including changes to the success criteria mid-trial, to the point that a patient could worsen and still be considered to have been successfully treated. In fact the design was such that the patients in the trial may not even have had ME/CFS in the first place.

Which of course would mean that the patient groups were actually clinically correct in their opposition to the CBT/GET protocol, utterly destroying the criticism of them as 'fringe'. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:02, 30 November 2016 (UTC)

Date of Birth[edit]

SW's dob was missing from the page. He posted to his Twitter account on 23rd Dec that today he had turned 60 ( so I have added 23rd to his dob in the article body text. I have not updated the info box as it looks like a different template is needed and I do not know how. Kicsinyul (talk) 11:45, 24 December 2016 (UTC)