Appendix 12 – Professor Simon Wessely
Professor Simon Wessely plays an important part in a network of psychiatric
medical professionals whose views and research are almost
completely coincidental with those of the government policies of
Britain and North America. He has access to funding, media and support,
which enables him to shape and promote the prevailing view
about a number of issues which are of importance to those States.
Professor Wessely is the leading chronic fatigue syndrome
research academic in Britain, heading the CFS Research Unit at
King’s College Hospital, now part of Guy’s, King’s and St. Thomas’
School of Medicine (GKT). There he also heads the Gulf War
Research Unit and pursues the role of civilian advisor in psychiatry to
the British Army. Since the end of the 1980s, Professor Wessely has
steered a fine line, carefully avoiding categorising ME and CFS
patients as mentally ill, whilst nevertheless working hard to classify
their illness, against the prevailing trend, as a psychiatric condition.
Wessely has established an unrivalled position as a well-placed
government advisor and peer reviewer in almost all the seminal journals.
He has been involved with every serious inquiry into ME and
CFS over the past decades, and his papers and those of his colleagues,
produced in considerable number, dominate the field in any literature
Professor Wessely should be granted a dictionary of his own, so
far has he stretched the meaning of the English language while
attempting to explain that ME although a ‘real’ illness, is often first
imagined. He has trodden the tightrope of confusing semantics with
the balance of Blondel and the focus of a train spotter.
In the late 1980s, as described in part one, as a member of the
newly-formed Campaign Against Health Fraud, Wessely collaborated
closely with former trade magazine hack Caroline Richmond, the
campaign founder, who played a leading role in helping him to publicly
demolish the scientific categorisation of ME and to redetermine
it in the minds of the public as a sham illness. His collaboration with
Richmond, and later with the feminist literary critic and professor of
humanities Elaine Showalter, empowered both Richmond and
Showalter to speak with spurious authority at conferences and seminars
on ME, CFS and Gulf War Syndrome, despite their complete lack
of medical expertise or education. Showalter has become deeply
involved in Wessely’s forays into military-funded research into GWS.
Her atrociously muddled book, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and
Modern Culture, suggests that ME, GWS and such things as claimed
alien abductions are all equally part of a contemporary hysteria.
Wessely’s research results and publicly-expressed views have
stirred the ire of patient self-help groups. He has stated openly that
members of such mutual support groups for ME and CFS are fooling
themselves, refusing to face up to the reality that their illness is psychosomatic.
Wessely works in the most prestigious London units involved in
psychiatric research. The GKT complex also encompasses the
Institute of Psychiatry (IOP). The whole of Wessely’s department in
the IOP is committed to, and working on, issues relating to the psychiatric
aetiology of illness. He is also involved in the King’s College
Risk Centre (KCRC), which is researching the perceived health risks
of mobile phones and their masts, with the view, no doubt, to finding
that there are none.
The IOP receives funding from, among others, Unilever,
SmithKline Beecham and Pfizer, Novartis, NPS Pharmaceuticals;
Lilly Industries Ltd (manufacturers of Prozac); Hoescht Marion
Roussel; GlaxoSmithKline (Seroxat); Bristol Myers Squibb; Bayer;
Zeneca and Wyeth.
Professor Wessely has been employed or grant-aided by both the
British Ministry of Defence and the US Defense Department. He has
contributed to seminars and meetings at NATO on crisis management
of public fears of terrorist incidents. His connections with the military
clearly involve conflicts of interests, and his work on Gulf War syndrome
is thus automatically more suspect than that of independent
Professor Wessely is an advisor to PRISMA Health, which was
founded in 1999 and began establishing its programme in Europe and
North America. Its head office and the corporate staff are based in
Essen, Germany, and its president in the year 2000 was George F.
Thoma, a German managing partner at Shearman & Sterling, a global
law firm with more than 1,000 lawyers based in the world’s financial
capitals. Representatives of the US government and the most
powerful corporations of North America, such as Monsanto, have visited
the company’s offices in New York. Thoma is a member of the
company’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group, and practises primarily in
the areas of corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, corporate
restructuring and privatisations.
Thoma, who has worked for banks, chemical and pharmaceutical
companies, worked inside the Treuhandanstalt, the Berlin-based
agency created by statute and charged with directing all aspects of the
privatisation process in the federal states. He helped to privatise the
East German shipyards, and became the principal counsel and coordinator
representing the Treuhandanstalt for the privatisation and
corporate reorganisation of the chemical, mining and public utility
industries in former East Germany. His law firm worked for
SmithKline Beecham in its $189 billion merger with Glaxo Wellcome,
creating the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. Another partner
at Shearman & Sterling was chosen by Bush to be Ambassador to
China, while others can be found on the Council on Foreign relations.
Professor Wessely devised the programme on CFS that PRISMA
is selling to insurance companies for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Interestingly, he says nothing in the company introduction
about patients suffering from any kind of psychological difficulties,
although he lays emphasis on antidepressant drugs, the prescription of
which, one imagines, must be preceded by some kind of psychiatric
Professor Wessely played a leading part in the Chief Medical
Officer’s inquiry into ME/CFS, which was organised from 1998 to
2002. Very near the end of the inquiry, the psychiatric aetiology contingent
walked out en masse, claiming that the final report of the
committees would veer too close to suggesting that ME and CFS was
a physical illness. Despite this juvenile protest, the final report
advised that more funding should be given to the MRC to investigate
ME and CFS.
The money for this further research was duly granted to the
Medical Research Council, and then diverted, in toto, to Wessely’s
colleagues. The funding was used to finance what have become
known in ME circles as the ‘fraudulent PACE trials’. This research
looked at the already-decided psychological treatments for the ‘psychiatric’
conditions of ME and CFS.
Wessely has also, recently, found a perfect home working alongside
Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, the former chief medical officer,
who initiated the CMO’s report into ME/CFS, and to whom Dr
Wakefield wanted to talk about the risks of MMR.
Calman now of Durham University, sits on the Advisory panel to
the All Party Group on Health with two highly placed vaccine company
executives.1 He is also Chairman of the Radiation, Risk and
Society Advisory Group (R,RSAG), a body within the Health
Protection Agency (HPA) that was set up in 2001 and of which
Wessely is a member.2 The purpose of the group was originally to spin
the work of the National Radiological protection Board (NRPB). [At
this point, the words, ‘all in it together’ drift through my mind].
The purpose of the R,RSAG is explained on the HPA web site in
an obscure manner. The R,RSAG it says, was set up to ‘improve the
ways it [the NRPB] heads public views and communicated with the
public.’A linguist would find the use of the word ‘heads’ in this context
very interesting. The word that comes closest to explaining
‘heads’ is ‘leads’ which in turn means to guide or, as in ‘lead story’,
the items of news given greatest prominence in newspapes. What it
might have meant to say is that the R,RSAG ‘heeds’ public views, if
so, this was an interesting Freudian slip.
Perhaps more frightening than the fact that the HPA has built in
communications units or spin groups, is the oddly alienated and thoroughly
patronizing manner in which the R,RSAG talks about its role;
‘R,RSAG assesses, on a continuing basis, what the public wants to
know about radiation, risk and how society will be affected by such
One of the bullet points that explain what the R,RSAG
actually does, has an ominous ring which we have heard
before: ‘Developing a series of guidelines, testable by the
HPA, on ways of responding to risk issues.’
The R,RSAG is keen to get into schools to explain science and risk to
schoolchildren, and to this end it has been holding meetings with various
The web site goes on to say that the R,RSAG was set up to help
the NRPB to achieve this leading of public opinion in practical ways.
The group reports only to the board of the HPA, which is studded with
members who have pharmaceutical and other conflict interests.
In October 2004, after a meeting between the R,RSAG chair and
secretary and the communications director of the HPA, it was decided
that the group was handling spin for the RPB so well that, with the
inclusion of other representatives, it could handle spin for all the other
departments of the HPA. The new group would be managed by Lis
Birrane the HPA communications director. So Wessely is now quite
close to being able to spin, all matters relating to public health and science.