Lynn Gilderdale: Media coverage, 17.12.08



Two items from the Times:

Sunday Times Review section: Page 14

14 December 2008

‘Yuppie flu’ becomes a terminal illness

This was a brief item and does not appear to be available online.  [I’ll transcribe at some point, if I have time.]

Once again, the Times, irresponsibly, inaccurately and disrespectfully uses the “Yuppie flu” phrase.

The majority of media reports around the Gilderdale case have used this phrase – either in the article text or in the headline.  The more severe the patient’s experience, the more likely the “Yuppie flu” phrase is dragged out again.  Is this out of habit, to provoke a response from a patient community sick to the back teeth of the phrase or from sheer laziness?  Or are some journalists seeking to blunt their own discomfort and emotional response (or that of the public) to the severity of this individual’s symptoms, in the context of a particularly controversial case, with a comfort-blanket “groaner”*?   Why is the media so reluctant to let go of this meaningless, trite and inaccurate term?

*Cf:  “tot”, “boffin”, “plucky grandma”, “experts warn…”, “leading scientists say…”, “brave toddler (aged 5)”, “young mum of one (I was 37 at the time!)”, “lost her battle with…(usually cancer)”, “yuppie flu campaigners”.  [If  you have any gems, please send them to me.  I’ll open a dedicted posting in the next few days and maintain a list with “yuppie flu” at the top.]

If any journalists/sub editors stumble across this posting, I would be very interested to hear their justifications for clinging to this phrase.

The Mail, for example, has given extensive coverage to the Gilderdale case.  Their main report was supported by additional reporting and commentary by journalist Gill Swain, who had interviewed the Gilderdale family back in 2006.  Ms Swain’s sensitive commentary has been much appreciated by the ME community.

Curiously, the principal Mail article, as it stands online, has a headline which includes the phrase “‘yuppie-flu’ daughter” despite stating towards the end of the article: “Until then [publication of the CMO’s Report] victims of myalgic encephalomyelitis were often dismissed as having ‘yuppie flu’, as its symptoms were considered particularly common among overworked middle-class professionals.”

Why then, does the journalist or sub editor go on to use “‘yuppie-flu’ daughter” in the headline?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve started seeing “…which used to be known as ‘yuppie flu'” and “…often dismissed as having ‘yuppie flu’”.  Why are so many journalists incapable of writing about this illness without slipping in a reference to the “YF” phrase?

We don’t see the media reporting “MS, which used to be considered….” or “Polio, which was once attributed to…” or “Parkinson’s Disease, which psychiatrists once thought was caused by…” .

The media has been using “yuppie flu” since the eighties.  How many more years is it going to take before journalists and sub editors drop this wretched media-invented/media-perpetuated phrase?

And while I’m on this subject of names for this illness: ME is sometimes referred to as “Chronic fatigue syndrome” but often truncated by the media to “Chronic fatigue”.  It is not accurate to do so.  If sub editors have only a short measure in which to set a headline – far better to drop a font size than truncate to “Chronic fatigue”. Better still, use “ME” if writing about ME, per se, then there can be no confusion with general fatigue conditions, which present in many illnesses.


The Times

The Times Letters to the Editor, print edition and online
December 17, 2008

Treat ME properly

Doctor’s treatment of ME as a mental illness not a physical one caused unnecessary suffering

Sir, My mother cared for my sister, Sophia Mirza, who like Lynn Gilderdale (report, Dec 9, and letter, Dec 11), had severe ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Like Lynn’s mother, Kay Gilderdale, my mother was a nurse, and cared for my sister in the face of exceptionally difficult medical “care”. Sophia was treated as if she was mentally ill by her doctors. My mother was treated as if she was keeping her daughter ill. Sophia was sectioned into a mental health hospital because she refused to have her physical illness treated as a mental one. It was two weeks before we could get her out.

My sister died of this disease on November 25, 2005. A post mortem revealed the extent of her real physical illness. Sophia suffered unnecessarily because a physical illness was treated as a mental one. How many more deaths will it take to change the way ME is treated?

Roisin Mirza



Ed: Sophia’s mother, Criona, maintains a website on the issues surrounding her daughter’s death which includes copies of extensive documentary evidence at:


On Sunday, two opinion pieces were published:

Scotland on Sunday

Published Date: 14 December 2008

By Dani Garavelli

“Whatever happened to Lynn Gilderdale – an ME sufferer found dead in her house in East Sussex last week – it is clear she too was surrounded by love. Her mother Kay, who was later arrested on suspicion of her murder, had cared for her daughter for 17 years, and if it transpires she played a part in her death, it seems likely it was for altruistic reasons. But just because an act is motivated by love doesn’t necessarily make it ethical; in fact, the more we love, the more our judgment is likely to be skewed. That is why we don’t allow the families of victims of violence to decide the perpetrator’s prison sentence; and it’s why, increasingly, I believe we need to clarify the law on assisted suicide…”

Read full opinion piece here


The Independent on Sunday

14 December 2008

By Edward Turner

A real choice at the end of life for people who are desperate

“As stories of assisted suicide dominate the news, our writer explains why some have a right to die…

“…The third case to make the news this week was that of Kay Gilderdale, who was arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of her 31-year-old daughter, Lynn…”

Read full opinion piece here


Scottish Sunday Express, p 22

14 December 2008

Dignity of dying

Hazel McHafie discusses recent events relating to assisted suicide.  The Gilderdale family case is mentioned.

(no link)


Economist (online)

11 December 2008

Guidance over assisted suicides

Article on the law concerning assisted suicide.  The article mentions the Gilderdale family case.


Shiva, who blogs at has some interesting views here