Chronic Fatigue Scientists Get Death Threats

Researchers who suggest psychological contributors to chronic fatigue syndrome receive death threats from activists.

Aug 23, 2011
Tia Ghose

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Researchers who study chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have been subject to harassment, stalking, and death threats from activists. The scientists provoked the extremist’s wrath by publishing studies suggesting the disease has anything other than a purely external cause.

After reporting that a link between murine leukemia virus and chronic fatigue was the result of laboratory contamination, Imperial College London researcher Myra McClure received months of daily emails from a man who said he was having pleasure imagining her drown, The Guardian reports. She eventually stopped collaborating with US colleagues after getting more explicit death threats saying she would be shot.

Michael Sharpe, an Oxford psychologist who found that cognitive behavioral therapy relieved symptoms for some patients, has been stalked by a woman with a knife, according to The Guardian. "These campaigns are only going to harm patients,” by forcing scientists to stop studying the disease, Sharpe told the publication.

Another scientist, King’s College London psychiatrist Simon Wessely has stopped studying CFS altogether, in favor of conditions linked to war zones, which requires him to visit locales like Iraq and Afghanistan—where he says he feels much safer.