Correspondence between Stephen Ralph and Dr Charles Shepherd

Correspondence between Stephen Ralph and Dr Charles Shepherd

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The opinion piece below, which includes extracts from recent correspondence with Dr Charles Shepherd is authored and published by Stephen Ralph; the views and opinions expressed are the views and opinions of Mr Ralph and any comments or queries resulting out of this opinion piece should be addressed to Mr Ralph and not to ME agenda.

Stephen Ralph maintains a website at 

Dr Charles Shepherd is an Honorary Medical Advisor and a Trustee/Director of the ME Association

A copy of the statement which Stephen Ralph quotes from is here:



By Stephen Ralph  ME Action UK

Permission to Repost

06 November 2009

Like many of you, I was alarmed when I read the recent MEA XMRV Statement No.3 particularly because of one telling sentence.

I decided to ask Dr Shepherd a series of questions and although I had several answers, I had no answer at all to one important question that I asked several times.

I asked Dr Shepherd about this statement.

“Demonstrating a link between a retrovirus and ME/CFS does not, by itself, resolve the physical vs psychological debate.

Research studies have demonstrated links between retroviruses and diseases as diverse as autoimmune disorders (which could be relevant to ME/CFS), immunodeficiency diseases, multiple sclerosis, tumours, anaemias and even schizophrenia.”

In reply I got the following from Dr Shepherd.

“I don’t think this comment will have any effect whatsoever on psychiatry.

Psychiatrists already know that viruses and psychiatric illness can sometimes be linked.

I put this info into version 3 because some people are wrongly assuming that having a viral link in an illness means that it must be physical rather than psychological. And that the physical vs psychological battle in ME/CFS is now almost over. I only wish…..

Retroviruses may be involved in schizophrenia and it is being said the up to 40% of people with autism have XMRV.”

I then asked Dr Shepherd what he would do if he found he was XMRV negative and how this might impact on his judgment.

In reply I had the following from Dr Shepherd…

“I don’t know my XMRV status. I obviously could have access to XMRV testing facilities. But as knowing my XMRV result isn’t going to affect either my diagnosis of ME or the management of my illness at this stage I don’t see any point in being tested.”

Lastly, I asked Dr Shepherd if he did or did not support the views of Professors Simon Wessely, Michael Sharpe and Peter White.

I asked this question twice for the sake of clarification.

Dr Shepherd has decided not to answer that question.

I asked the question because on numerous occasions the MEA have released hedge betting, sitting-on-the-fence statements or cheek turning Statements that effectively support the agenda of Somatoform Psychiatry or completely ignore the agenda of Somatoform Psychiatry.

The statement regarding XMRV not ending the debate on mental v physical is for my eyes indicating that yet again the MEA and Dr Shepherd are entertaining the possibility that Wessely White and Sharpe are right.

Dr Shepherd – you should be actively ending the involvement of Professors Wessely, White and Sharpe and you should be representing the total “State of Science” from across the Atlantic as is the case with the ESME – see their website for example…

…instead of selectively picking what you want to feed your members and back peddling on the profound implications of XMRV and what was said at the CFSAC last week.

As we all know, the liaison faction of psychiatry firmly and militantly assert that CFS is a functional psychosomatic syndrome and that ME does not exist at all.

We know that the likes of Wessely, White and Sharpe are trying to get CFS into the next edition of the DSM – DSM-V and reclassified in ICD-11.

Both Action for ME and the ME Association are doing nothing to stop this agenda.

I asked Dr Shepherd some time ago if he or the MEA were going to do anything about the CSSID DSM-V ICD-11 agenda and Dr Shepherd said he was too busy and it wasn’t on his list of things to do.

In my view, the ME Association is not a lot more than the Public Relations arm of Action for ME.

Yes they seem approachable and yes they seem to press all the buttons that please some of their members.

But as soon as you ask anything considered “controversial” or important – then Dr Shepherd and/or the MEA goes silent and refuses to answer the question as is the case by default with Action for ME.

It seems to me that here in the UK and for many years, the ME population are being held hostage by the mental health movement who seem to have castrated both Action for ME and the ME Association who between them dominate the arena yet lay silent and do nothing to counter the mental health agenda…

So it seems to me that neither charity actually give a damn about the concerns of the ME community unless those views accord with their agenda that they will not discuss when challenged in ANY detail.

They say the devil is in the detail but we do not know what the detail is because when we ask we get nothing back.

Under these circumstances we need those over in the USA and those in the UK with Independence of mind and purposes such as ME Research UK, the 25% ME Group and Invest in ME – to come to the rescue of the UK ME patient population.

If people are not happy with this e-mail I have written and you think I am being unfair then you should ask Dr Shepherd and the MEA yourselves and get the answers he would not give to me or the many others who have asked similar questions over the years that never get answered.

Why does the MEA turn the other cheek and choose not to robustly challenge the views of Professor Wessely and his colleagues and instead state that “they already know” so that these individuals are therefore beyond challenging…

How exactly does liaison psychiatry “already know” that retro-viruses cause mental illness and does the MEA believe that XMRV potentially causes functional mental illness in people with ME? If not then why stay silent – creating a space for the opposition to occupy.

Why does the MEA put out neutered statements that reflect the views of liaison psychiatry instead of using all the evidence available to robustly and technically challenge those views?

Why is the ME Association calling for the use of the CDC Fukuda Criteria in UK XMRV research when the Fukuda criteria has been and is still being exploited by Wessely et al due to its well known ability to produce a heterogeneous patient group and therefore research results that are by default inconclusive and “mixed” and challengeable by those with a mental health agenda?

Why does the ME Association not firmly call for the use the Canadian criteria or use both Fukuda and the Canadian criteria in parallel research to make the research outcomes more meaningful and less open to exploitative deconstruction when the ME Association at one time adopted the Canadian Criteria by a democratic vote and then quietly swept that democratic vote under their carpet?

This is all about accountability. We should be given full answers to all of the above questions.

What is wrong in asking?  Why does that make us bad?

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Ralph