As we promised in our post dated 05/03/2015, please find below the communication between Dr Gillberg (Claudia) and The Lancet regarding abuse towards certain members of the ME community by Pam Das, a Senior Editor on that journal. A copy of Claudia’s letter can be found in our previous post;
Dr Horton’s reply,
Dear Dr Gillberg – Many thanks for your note. We will look into this incident. I appreciate you taking the trouble to write and please be assured that we will take your complaint seriously.
My best, Richard
To which Claudia responded:
Thank you for your prompt reply and offer to look into the incident, it is much appreciated.
After a couple of weeks, having heard nothing further from Dr Horton, Claudia sent a reminder re his assurance about looking into the incident;
Dear Dr. Horton,
Dear Dr. James,
Further to our correspondence of 5th March, subject line: The Lancet’s representation on social media, I would like to enquire when to expect a reply from you re my formal complaint about senior executive editor Ms Pam Das’ conduct on Twitter.
I look forward to hearing from you.
The following reply was received from Dr Astrid James (Deputy Editor at The Lancet);
Dear Dr Gillberg
In response to your letter of complaint about Pam Das’ behaviour on Twitter on March 4, I have now looked into this further.
Pam’s Tweets, as she clearly identifies, are her own, and do not represent The Lancet. You are probably aware that Pam has apologised on Twitter for any offence she caused.
For The Lancet, we regret any offence caused to you and to other sufferers by the conversation escalating in the way that it did.
We encourage debate, public engagement, and constructive dialogue on social media or in our Correspondence section, and welcome any such contributions.
Dr Astrid James
125 London Wall
London EC2Y 5AS
After some consideration Claudia decided to keep it short to point out what was obvious:
Dear Dr. James,
Thank you for your response.
At the time of the incident Ms Das’s had clearly identified herself as a Lancet editor on her Twitter profile. I have been blocked from her account since the incident occurred so I do not know whether or not she has apologised.
Your reply is therefore completely unsatisfactory.
Dr. Claudia Claudia Gillberg, PhD in Education
Research Associate ENCELL, National Centre for Lifelong Learning
Senior Adjunct Lecturer in Education, Gothenburg University
Senior Adviser to UNICEF on Rights Respecting Schools
Nothing has transpired since and it is safe to assume nothing further will be said on the part of The Lancet. An in-depth analysis of this incident would no doubt be necessary and important at some point and we do invite you to comment and discuss this matter. Suffice it to state that we regard The Lancet’s action and reaction as intellectually embarrassing. Downplaying the type of behaviour Ms Pam Das has been displaying on social media and subsequently hiding behind her amateurish attempt to render her Twitter account ‘private’ when there is ample evidence to the Lancet’s endorsement of ‘attitudinal barriers’ towards certain diseases, is not dignified let alone scientifically tenable.
Unfortunately Claudia’s original letter of complaint became conflated with protests on Twitter concerning Ms Das and The Lancet by certain members of the ME community, which enabled the journal to effectively ignore the official complaint and use Twitter as an outlet for their poor attempt at an apology, ‘sorry if you were offended’, rather than sorry for what has been said and done. A formal written complaint requires a formal response, not a few words on Twitter and a half-hearted ‘regret about any offence’ in an email that did not deal with the original complaint and which failed to address Claudia’s concerns. This is especially facile as Claudia could not read Ms Das’ ‘apology’ as, like most of those insulted, she had been blocked from Ms Das’ account. It might seem extreme to make such a point about a comment on Twitter, there are no doubt far more important matters to be dealing with, but considering the source and in light of The Lancet’s general treatment of the ME community over the years, we felt it needed to be addressed.
The Lancet has consistently promoted the Wessely school, psychogenic explanation of ME aetiology for many years*, so their dismissive treatment of Claudia and other members of the ME community is not unexpected. We hope, as time marches on and the number of peer-reviewed papers demonstrating various physiological mechanisms behind ME pathology increases, that The Lancet will adjust its attitude and treat a group of often very ill patients with the respect they deserve, something sorely lacking in Ms Das’s communications on Twitter.
*Note their promotion of the PACE trial and The Lancet editorial’s ludicrous claim that PACE ’paved the way’ for the recent IOM report.