Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:37 pm on 23rd January 2002.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent 5:37 pm, 23rd January 2002

Sorry about that, Bristow.

I thank Alex Fergusson and his son, who has done a public service by allowing us to hear his case in the Parliament. That is not easy for a young man who is at an age when young people tend to be easily embarrassed. I thank him for championing this great cause.

My first encounter with ME was in 1989, in Dunoon, where I attended a fatal accident inquiry. As I approached the witness room, I heard some people giggling and sniggering away, saying, "Oh! There is somebody in there who must be drunk." So I went in. Someone was lying prostrate on a bench. The lady lifted her head, having heard that horrid little remark, and said, "I am not drunk. I am an ME sufferer and it's taken all my strength to get here." She turned out to be an expert witness in the inquiry, and a doctor. It was a great struggle for that woman to get a boat to Dunoon and back, but she did her duty to testify at that inquiry. She was an ME sufferer who was trying desperately to cling on to her job and normal life—which many ME sufferers cannot do.

The Health and Community Care Committee was moved by direct testimony from a young man who is an ME sufferer. Indeed, we had the most moving and eloquent testimony from the mother of a little girl who is virtually a prisoner all day in her bedroom.

Alex Fergusson stated that his son was a champion cricketer but can now barely lift a bat. It is our duty to find out what is striking down our young people in what should be their best years. We do not know why this tragedy is on the increase, but we do know that there is still profound ignorance about ME, even in the medical profession—but thank goodness it has been declared properly to be a physical condition.

I suggest to the Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Hugh Henry, that we might all get together and consider what sort of literature should be sent to every general practitioner in Scotland to inform them about ME, never mind the ME patients—which would be another breakthrough. That would show Parliament's solid support for those patients.

The big problem has been to get rid of the ancient, awful Scots medical mantra that a general practitioner utters when he or she does not know what on earth he or she is talking about. In such cases the general practitioner recommends that a patient see a psychiatrist, who in turn often does not know what he or she is talking about either. As a result, ME patients have been through what Dickens called the Circumlocution Office, looking desperately for help. It is the Parliament's duty to help those patients and to tell Alex Fergusson, his family and everyone in the gallery that we owe them respect and action.