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S K E W E D by Martin Walker
Copies of Skewed can be purchased via the 25% ME Group. Price = £12
Please make cheques payable to '25% ME Group'
Psychiatric Hegemony and the Manufacture of Mental Illness in Multiple
Chemical Sensitivity, Gulf War Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Reviewed by Elizabeth A McDonagh: In what is almost a sequel to his earlier book ‘Dirty Medicine’, Martin Walker
takes a penetrating look at the “emerging illnesses” listed in his title.
He concludes that the majority of doctors and psychiatrists hold the view
that these illnesses are psychological in origin, equivalent to the hysteria
and neurasthenia described in nineteenth century medical literature.
SKEWED presents a number of case-studies, illustrating how patients suffer under a
psychiatric paradigm, which deems clinical investigations of their problems
inappropriate and unnecessary and may deprive them of disability pensions
and insurance payments. As Walker searches for explanations as to how the
psychiatric viewpoint has gained ascendancy, his considerable skills in
investigative journalism become apparent. Some pages read like a
‘who-dun-it’. There are hoaxes, false trails, undercover surveillance,
break-ins, attacks on alternative therapists and court battles in which
doctors who practise clinical ecology have fought for their reputations and
their livelihoods. Such events indicate some of the dark forces Walker sees
as underpinning patients’ distress.
In his perceptive foreword, Per Dalen explains how modern high-tech so-called ‘evidence based’ medicine deprives the doctor of autonomous clinical
judgement and interposes between doctor and patient the researcher and/or
the orthodox viewpoint. In the past, psychiatrists saw only those patients
with histories and clinical signs of mental illness. Even then, a physical
explanation (such as a brain tumour) was sometimes found for a patient’s
disease. The tendency now is for a number of unexplained illnesses to be
labelled as ‘somatization’ (conversion of emotional states into
physical symptoms). This is a relatively new development and has been
accepted without scientific evidence or philosophical debate. He deplores
the ‘tragic erosion of the truth-seeking scientific spirit in medical
research’. Modern medicine is not concerned with finding causes.
However, viewed from Martin Walker’s sociological perspective, one can begin
to understand these problems and the impact they are having on sufferers.
SKEWED is a
fascinating read. In fact I couldn’t put it down. I confess to looking up
‘hegemony’ in the Shorter Oxford and although I kept a medical dictionary at
my elbow, I needed it only occasionally. If patients with brain-fog and
short attention spans find reading difficult, this book should be read by
their carers, advocates and lawyers. Reading it will lead to a new
political awareness. There is a need for people with these very real
illnesses to become informed; to disseminate information; to organise; to
help each other in exposing those who would deprive them of their rights; to
support those doctors, researchers and therapists who are looking for the
true causes and underlying biochemical mechanisms which make up the jigsaw
that is ME; even to litigate against the adversary.
I am one
of a few lucky people. ME struck me down in 1990 after a virus, a
chest-infection, two courses of antibiotics and a ‘flu jab. I attribute my
recovery (which took nearly five years) to naturopathic detoxification
techniques, avoidance of drugs (though I did take Nystatin), rest and
nutritional therapy, including a strict anti-Candida diet. I have heard the
stories of parents who were labelled as ‘Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy’ and threatened with losing their sick children. I have met ME patients who
were ill-advised and made worse by exercise and drugs, or subjected to
appalling regimes in psychiatric hospitals. I have known very disabled
people denied sickness benefits. I have met young professionals who, forced
by sickness to retire, were refused pensions. I have seen carers struggling
to the extent of despair. The suicide of a lovely girl put fire in my
situation described in SKEWED is allowed to continue, there
are frightening implications for the future of mankind. Martin Walker has
done us a tremendous service. We should thank him by buying his book. The
book has a comprehensive index and offers useful lists of relevant
organisations, web-sites, scientific papers, official reports and books.
Skewed can be purchased via the 25% ME Group. Price = £12 inc p&p.
Please make cheques payable to 25% ME Group.
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