1,000 signatures reached
To: Annika Saarikko and Pirkko Mattila, the ministers of the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
ME/CFS IS NOT A FUNCTIONAL DISORDER – WE CALL FOR APPROPRIATE TREATMENT
Suomeksi (in Finnish): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XOvStzveP77fATk73ROtIY24kPldKOh7R_lub7c5AL8/edit?usp=sharing
På svenska (in Swedish): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Coht2aDZg1iLcuKd47CR0Ro5NQBrBvp8MRw3tgvkb8k/edit?usp=sharing
Dear ministers Annika Saarikko and Pirkko Mattila, we call on you to initiate the planning of the treatment of ME/CFS on the basis of up-to-date scientific knowledge. The model for treating functional disorders is not appropriate for this disease.
WHAT WE CALL FOR:
Patients with ME/CFS are entitled to evidence-based treatment, and instead of organizing psychosocial treatment, we call on the Finnish social and health care to
• acknowledge ME/CFS as a physical illness and treat both patients and their families on an equal basis with patients suffering from other serious organic diseases (the Finnish equality act)
• provide its employees and medical students up-to-date, correct information (not the theory of ME/CFS as a functional disorder)
• use diagnostic criteria, that is strict enough to distinguish ME/CFS from other conditions (e.g. the Canadian Concensus Criteria)
• organize symptomatic treatment on the basis of up-to-date scientific definition of ME/CFS as a somatic illness
• apply biomedical, evidence-based treatments developed for ME/CFS, as soon as they are available
• guarantee ME/CFS patients the support and the specific equipments that they need to cope according to the Finnish disability service act.
Why is this important?
PROBLEMS IN THE PROPOSED MODEL
ME/CFS (G93.3) is also known as postviral fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, and the WHO has listed it as a disease of the nervous system since 1969. Although the cause of the disease is still unknown, the biomedical research has shown explicitly that the disease is organic. The STM (Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health) working group for organizing the treatment of functional disorders, however, defines it as a psychosocial condition by including it in the group of functional disorders. This kind of classification leads to entirely unsuitable treatments and denying patients with ME/CFS the support that they need.
The model of classifying ME/CFS as a functional disorder comes from Denmark. The leading ME/CFS researchers in the international science community consider this model as oppositional to contemporary scientific knowledge and harmful. The experts of WorkWell Foundation, who specialize in the hallmark symptom of ME/CFS (PEM), released last May (2018) a concerned letter addressed to all healthcare providers, in which they warned about the harmfulness of graded ex-ercise therapy (GET). The unravelling of avoidance behavior, which has been proposed for treating functional disorders, blatantly conflicts the recommendations of these experts.
The results of a study known as The PACE Trial have been presented as scientific basis for the psychosocial treatment of ME/CFS. The study, however, has been profoundly questioned due to serious methodological problems. Three open letters have been sent to The Lancet demanding an independent reanalysis of the trial data. The first letter was signed by six international scientists on the field, and the second one by 42 of them. The third letter was ultimately signed by more than a hundred. A few other studies have been presented as basis for psychosocial treatment as well and they too have silmilar problems.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
Even though the STM report hasn’t yet been released, medical and psychology students of the University of Helsinki have already been lectured about chronic fatigue syndrome under the title “Functional disorders” in the past two years, and similar lectures have been provided for the medical profession throughout Finland. The Finnish social insurance institution Kela has already been applying the treatment model for functional disorders to patients with ME/CFS and rejected ME/CFS-based applications for social benefits because of the misrepresentation of the illness. There is a significant number of disabled people with ME/CFS in Finland, who have no social security. Those of them, who have no personal safety nets, are the most vulnerable. The guidance for schooling in the STM report, that concerns children with ME/CFS, goes against articles 17§ and 18§ of the Finnish primary education act. As for children with ME/CFS, classifying the illness as a psychosocial disorder has caused Finnish families with children unreasonable suffering and difficulty.
By signing this petition you help Finnish patients with ME/CFS to get the care and support that they need and to which they are legally entitled.