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Is the Daily Mail bad for your health?


If you need health advice, Beyond the Bedpan recommends the Daily Mail. Provided, of course, that you are not making it up.

The Daily Mail takes pride in its health coverage, and rightly so. Just ask the thousands of children saved from autism when the paper championed an alleged link between the neural disorder and the MMR vaccine.

And we do mean championed. The MMR-autism link went on to be categorically discredited. But The Mail battled on, brushing aside the petty protests of scientific evidence to bring its own lucrative version of “truth” to the masses.

Even a claim by the Media Standards Trust - that the anti-MMR claims were increasing the chances of a measles epidemic and putting children’s lives at risk - failed to dampen The Mail’s righteous fire.

More recently, the paper questioned the safety of the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) jab when a 14-year-old girl died shortly after being vaccinated. And the paper continued to question it even after public health officials said the girl’s death had been caused by “serious underlying health conditions”, and not by the HPV vaccine.

So it should be no surprise to learn that that the Mail’s sympathies extend to people suffering from myalgic encephalopathy (ME). The condition causes chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, sleep disorders, gastric disturbances and poor memory. The symptoms are often debilitating enough to prevent sufferers from working, going to school or generally leading normal lives.

And what words of advice would our favourite health correspondents have for people suffering these debilitating symptoms? It was summed up nicely in a reader poll: “Is ME a genuine illness?”

In other words, “not only do we know nothing about your condition, but we think you might have made the whole thing up”.

Shocking stuff. So shocking, that even the immovable Mail saw fit to remove the poll and apologise. An apology that neatly blamed the fiasco on an unnamed “junior” member of staff, and couldn’t resist raising a suggestive eyebrow by reminding offended ME sufferers that “there is still a great deal to learn about what lies behind the condition”. Charming.


Is the Daily Mail bad for your health?

View poll results

Readers' comments (20)

  • Daily Mail; is it right wing trash for Tory cash?

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  • Why anyone would read this excuse for a newspaper I don't know. In fact when it comes to science most reporters haven't a clue! The BBC is perhaps worse than the Daily Mail these days, just deciding to make up "news" to promote their own programmes.

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  • I can find something better for Gabriel Fleming to do with his time than, first, draw attention to the poll in the Daily Mail, "Do you think ME is a genuine illness?" for those who missed it the first time around, for which they subseqently apologised and removed it and, secondly, have a poll on his page, which is really no better than the one he is condemning.

    It is to publish the reason why there is no question at all that M.E. (I specifically mean Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and not the catch-all Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, with which M.E. has become associated) is a genuine illness and then promote promising, approriately funded, biomedical research, for greater understanding of this seriously disabling illness, in the hope of finding effective treatment and possibly a cure. There is incontrovertible postmortem evidence of inflammation in the spinal cord, in a substantial number of people, from around the world, who have died after having M.E. It is not a question of whether but how many and about the onset and common variables they share.

    That should keep you busy Gabriel and if you need some help, I know lots of people who would be delighted to hear from you and I'll be happy to put you in touch.

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  • It is somewhat confusing to show a representation of the original poll at the top of your article. It does look as if you are wanting people to vote again.

    I'd suggest removing that to give your article the full punch it needs.

    Thank you for taking the issue of ME seriously and I look forward to sound scientifically based articles on the subject in NT in future. There is much for the nursing community to learn about treatment of people with this debilitating condition.

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  • Gabriel Fleming writes: "The symptoms (of M.E.) are often debilitating enough to prevent sufferers from working, going to school or generally leading normal lives."

    What an understatement. Is Mr Fleming aware that people have died from M.E., and that premature death occurs in patients, usually from cancer or heart disease, by an average of 25 years?

    Is he aware that a quarter of all the 25,000 UK sufferers sufferers are house or bed bound, some existing in a living hell of lying in agony in darkened rooms for decades, unable to talk, walk, swallow or even open their eyes?

    Is he aware that since the 1980s nearly every penny of UK taxpayer funding for research and treatment into this horrible, incredibly painful illness has gone to members of the psychiatric profession who insist, against all scientific evidence, that it is 'an abnormal illness belief' (even though it has been classified as a physical, neurological illness by the World Health Organisation since 1969)? M.E. should never, ever have become part of the psychiatric service.

    Is he aware that sufferers are mixed up with people with mild depression in 'CFS' (M.E. and CFS are different illnesses) clinics, where they are offered only psychological treatments - cognitive behaviour therapy, that does nothing, and graded exercise, that is actually harmful - sometimes permanently. The severely affected are offered no treatment at all.

    Is he aware of the appallingly high suicide rate of M.E. patients, who have despaired of the illness, pain and of being unable to access effective treatment or even belief from the medical profession?

    If this appalling situation existed for sufferers of other neurological illness, e.g. M.S. or Parkinson's, the nursing profession would be surely calling for an urgent action to change it.

    Why not for M.E.? How long are a large group of physically ill patients going to be denied biomedical research and treatment, even being treated as malingerers whilst the nursing profession looks the other way?

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  • So they realised their error, took the poll down and apologised?

    Is this really about ME or do you have other grievances with the Daily Mail? Seems strange to launch an attack on the paper over something so trivial.

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  • I am a registered nurse now on disability after a bout of Epstein Barr virus in 2008. I am still unwell and unable to work, mostly housebound and still undiagnosed because no doctor in my area knows about ME, and a lot of them thinks I am malingering. I am not the only one in this situation, and a lot of people have no means to reach a specialist that will help them.

    ME is not a psychiatric illness. Recently, a research institute in Reno, Nevada found a retrovirus linked to ME/ CFS, which provide hope for all the sufferers that maybe their illness can be cure and they can return to a normal life.

    I urge all the nurses to get educated on myalgic encephalomyelitis, and if I may recommend not to look at governmental organization website, for their views are skewed.

    One good place to start with is

    thanks, Kati

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  • The M.E. community successfully complained to the editor of the Daily Mail and an apology was issued the poll was removed within a day. They have also published a letter of complaint.

    They,and the Independent, have been the only two national newspapers to report the exciting findings from the Whittmore Peterson Institute that M.E. may be caused by a newly discovered human retrovirus XMRV.

    You,on the other hand, have seen fit to post here the poll that you say is offensive. Why?

    Yes, there is a great deal to learn about the condition. Perhaps the nurses who work in CFS clinics could start by realising that the patients with neurological M.E. they are encouraging to do graded exercise may be harmed by it, as they have neither been tested or treated for the many persistent pathogens implicated in M.E. - Epstein Barr, Human herpes 6A, Parvovirus B19m chronic Lyme disease, crtptostrongylus pulmoni etc etc. nor for the widespread harm these are doing to their bodies.

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  • This letter, or an edited version of it, was published in the Daily Mail, who have also apologised:

    "Is M.E. a genuine illness? poll in "British experts say ME virus is a myth", Daily Mail, 6 January 2010

    As an M.E. sufferer of over three years, I wish to protest most strongly at your promotion of a poll questioning the legitimacy of my illness (Is M.E. real?).

    M.E. has been listed as a neurological disease by the World Health Organisation since 1969 and, as my diagnosis came from my GP, one would assume she knew what she was talking about and would not diagnose anybody with something that did not exist.

    A year ago I lost my disability benefits solely because of the bias and misinformation held as `truths' by some doctors who work for the DWP - this was despite having physical tests results showing massive cell damage going on inside my body and providing irrefutable evidence of the physiological nature of my disease which is responsible for the overwhelming pain and fatigue from which I suffer.

    An entire industry has been built up on the basis of denying the reality of M.E. as a disease, all based around vested interests of the insurance industry and certain psychologists who are in the pay of that industry and the DWP. The recent discovery of the retrovirus XMRV in the blood of sufferers is about to bring their house of cards toppling down, hence their hastily bodged pseudo-replication of the WPI (Whittemore Peterson Institue) study which discovered the link with XMRV. I think you will find the study put forth by the Behavioural unit of King's has not replicated the stringent protocols of the WPI's study, and therefore any conclusions forthcoming from their `research' are absolutely worthless, being totally incomparable to the original findings of the WPI. That they were rushed through, and rushed to publish, is evidence of the panic taking hold amongst those who have built lucrative careers out of condemning extremely sick people as `malingerers' and the unworthy sick; the end of this disgraceful situation is nigh. No longer will the government be able to justify spending a big fat zero on biomedical research into my illness, leaving it to charities and individuals like myself to fund research into finding a cure.

    UK psychologists can paddle as fast as they may, they cannot resist the turning tide of science, which will sweep them and their invalid ideas out into the sea of the outdated and unempirical. Don't give these ideas any credence with your ill-conceived poll.

    Yours sincerely
    Jenny Wilson

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  • I agree with most of what has been said here, and it is all very interesting because my 12 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with the Epstein Barr Virus. How can these detractors explain her extreme lethergy and other symptoms apparent BEFORE she was diagnosed? I stopped her from doing sports which I couldn't explain other than mother's instinct, but found out afterwards that her spleen and liver were vulnerable during the illness and could have caused serious problems if knocked. I think every other aspect here is more important than what one thinks of a specific newspaper. We are all adults and capable of accepting, rejecting, or doing our own research on issues discussed by them. I read the Mail as a way of quickly keeping up to date. The Express seems similiar but I simply feel the Mail is easier to read. Would they prefer me to read the Mirror; the Sun; the Star; or even the Sport instead? I think not! Genuine apologies ought to be respected, and at least a healthy debate has been generated.

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