Minutes Forward-ME meeting, 26 October 2010: Lightning Process trial involving children

Minutes Forward-ME meeting, 26 October 2010: Lightning Process trial involving children

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-3eO

Forward-ME is a caucus group to the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME (APPG on ME) convened and chaired by the Countess of Mar.

The most recent meeting of the group was held in October in a meeting room within the House of Lords and the issue of the SMILE Lighting Process pilot trial was tabled on the Agenda at Item 6.2. The following is an extract from the Minutes of that meeting:


Minutes of the meeting held on


1.00 PM


1. Present:

Jane Colby – TYMES Trust
Christine Harrison – BRAME
Bill and Janice Kent – ReMEmber
Peter Spencer – AfME
Charles Shepherd – MEA
Sue Waddle – MERUK

Margaret Mar – Chairman

Mary-Jane Willows – AYME

2. Apologies:

Tanya Harrison – BRAME


6.2 Lightning Process trial involving children

The Group were informed that MEA and Tymes Trust had provided a joint statement on the SMILE Trial to Richard Ashby, Chair of the South West ethics Committee, saying that they felt the trial was unethical and that the ethics committee had probably not been made aware that the Advertising Standards Agency had ruled against a claim made by a Lightning Process Practitioner and that trading standards departments had been taking action in relation to misleading therapeutic claims. Concerns about the trial were being assessed by the National Research Ethics Service, headed by Joan Kirkbride.

It was said that an increasing number of individuals were contacting ethics bodies to express concerns about the trial.

The Group was told of a commentary in the Church Times by Prof Robin Gill, Chair of the BMA Ethics Committee, in which he criticised the research, and that Prof Gill planned to take this up with the BMA.

The Chairman had tabled a question asking what the Government’s opinion is on this matter.

(Hansard text)

Christine Harrison asked whether a complaint had been made to the NSPCC regarding the SMILE Trial. Charles Shepherd replied that it had and the content of this could be viewed on the internet.

A discussion followed. Concern was expressed regarding the fact that the study involves research being conducted on children before it was tested on adults. It was recognised that the MRC guidelines stated circumstances under which it would be acceptable to perform a study on children in the first instance. The feasibility study would need to prove that these conditions were satisfied in order to achieve ethical clearance of the actual trial. The Principal Investigator would also have to prove that a robust risk management strategy had been developed to minimise any harm to participants.

Another concern was that the ethics committee seemed not to have been made aware of the ruling made by the Advertising Standards Agency in relation to claims made by a practitioner of the Lightning Process.

The point was made that 250 children a year undergo this treatment and a paediatrician had been approached and asked whether the treatment was safe. However there was a concern that parents who believed they must try everything that might be of benefit to their child could feel pressurised to try the treatment. Children could be very vulnerable to inappropriate pressure to say they felt better.

The Group was told that Dr Esther Crawley, the lead for the LP research, had received a large volume of malicious correspondence about her proposals. The Group agreed that this was not an appropriate or acceptable manner in which to demonstrate opposition and confirmed that none of them had been involved. It was suggested that it was activities such as this that drove young researchers from the field.

The Group was told that the research ethics papers submitted for the feasibility study were on the Bristol University website. Some of these papers made the case that M.E. in children was a different illness from M.E. in adults. It was drawn to the Group’s attention that Dundee University (in a biomedical study co-funded by Tymes Trust and Meruk) had discovered the same abnormalities in the blood of children that they had previously found in adults, so in this respect, ME in children was not a different illness from ME in adults. (See item 11)

The Chairman suggested that it was important to look at the recovery period covered by the study because M.E. was a relapsing condition.

1] SMILE – Specialist Medical Intervention and Lightning Evaluation documents (Lightning Process pilot study – children [now aged 12 to 18] with CFS and ME): http://wp.me/p5foE-37x

2] Background to this issue: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Vt

3] All posts on Lightning Process pilot study in children issue: https://meagenda.wordpress.com/category/lightning-process-smile-study/