Protesting Per Fink

#MEAction New York is holding a protest at Columbia University on Saturday, October 20, 2018 against the misinformation about ME that Dr. Per Fink is spreading to New York medical providers at the 4th Columbia Psychosomatics Conference.

Who is Per Fink? Dr. Fink is a psychologist physician from Denmark who directs the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics. As the name indicates, Fink’s clinic conducts research and treatment of functional disorders. In functional disorders, “symptoms are not better explained by another well-defined physical disease or mental disorder.” Fink expressly lumps ME, CFS, and fibromyalgia into a category he created and names Bodily Distress Syndrome. His recommended treatment is a program of CBT and GET, and claims most people will be cured or significantly better after treatment.

Fink is well-known to the ME community because of his involvement in the case of Karina Hansen. In 2013, Hansen was 24 years old when she was forcibly removed from her home and involuntarily committed to Hammel Neurocenter as a psychiatric patient, despite her ME diagnosis. Fink was one of two doctors overseeing her “treatment” at the institution, and permitted almost no family contact for more than one year. After years-long legal battles, Hansen was allowed to return home in 2017 2016 (as documented in Unrest), and her state guardianship was only terminated this week. Given the deterioration in Hansen’s condition while under Fink’s care, one has to wonder how his other “bodily distress syndrome” patients fare.

Now, Fink has been invited to speak at the 4th Columbia Psychosomatics Conference on October 20, 2018. His talk is titled “Bodily Distress Syndrome or Functional Somatic Syndromes: How to diagnose and treat.” The conference organizers have been made aware of Fink’s track record on ME, and his use of CBT and GET, but he remains on the agenda. This is especially troubling given that Columbia is also the home for the Center for Solutions for ME/CFS led by Dr. Ian Lipkin at Columbia’s Mailman School for Public Health. And it is frighteningly similar to NIH’s invitation to ME-denialist Dr. Edward Shorter to speak to the NIH ME/CFS Special Interest Group.

When researchers and institutions offer the microphone to ME-denialists like Shorter and Fink, we have to speak out against it. When a university of Columbia’s caliber invites one of the people responsible for holding Karina Hansen–against her will and incommunicado for years–to speak at a conference on psychosomatic illness, we have to speak out against it.

This is not an example of academic freedom and divergent points of view. Fink will speak about “bodily distress syndrome,” the landfill he invented for ME and CFS and a number of other medical conditions. This is like inviting a climate change denier to give the keynote address at a UN Climate Change Conference, or inviting Andrew Wakefield to speak at the National Immunization Conference. There is no justifiable reason for it. Academic freedom is an essential principle in science, but it is not an impenetrable shield to be deployed in defense of every misinformed or misguided speaker invitation.

It is time to Stop The Harm. Once again, it looks like people with ME will have to defend themselves. You can join the protest in two ways:

  1. Sign the #MEAction petition.
  2. Show up on October 20th at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. This flyer has all the details: Per Fink Protest
  3. Want to do more? Email or call the people on this list: Per Fink Protest Call List

#ScienceNotStigma

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24 Responses to Protesting Per Fink

  1. Nancy Blake says:

    I wrote directly to the organiser…apparently this has been sent to Psychology Today.

    Psychology Today
    Your email to Dr. Alla Landa has been sent.

    Here’s what you wrote:

    Have you looked at his treatment protocol for ME/CFS patients? He seems unaware of fundamental principles of operant conditioning, encouraging patients to give detailed, hourly reports of symptoms, when his model states ME/CFS is perpetuated by the patient paying too much attention to symptoms. He also relies on the PACE Trial, which is now regarded by informed statisticians as an example of poorly constructed research. Are you sure that he will not prove to be an ambarrassment in front of a knowledgeable audience? Nancy Blake, PWME, UKCP-Accredited Neurolinguistic Psychotherapist, Retired. 64 Ella Street HULL HU5 3AY U.K. Here is a link to my article about UK attempts to keep ME/CFS under the psychiatric umbrella: http://www.positivehealth.com/article/cfs-me/medically-unexplained-symptoms-diverting-5-year-funding-from-mental-health There is no evidence that treating it as a psychosomatic complaint has helped any patient return to full health.

    Contact info:

    Dr. Alla Landa
    West 86th Street (between Central Park West And Columbus Ave)
    New York, New York 10024
    Tel: (646) 681-7026
    Dr. Alla Landa’s Profile

  2. Betsy kemp says:

    This is so maddening Jennie. When I asked my new doctor about trying modafinil, he told me I should get it from a psychiatrist. The CFS community is certainly making headway (TY so much for all you do!) but has a distance to go….

  3. Eimear Forde says:

    I wonder is Ian Lipkin making noise about it?? He should be.

  4. Juliana says:

    Great explanation and action steps. I’d suggest a fourth action step — contacting the State and national CME accreditation bodies. CME courses have content standards in regards to bias and clinical validation. For New York it’s the Medical Society of the State of New York, MSSNY. The national body is the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, ACCME.

  5. Magdalena says:

    Thank you so much for highlighting and signal-boosting this. Massively important to speak out against it. Stop the harm!

  6. billie moore says:

    Thank you, Jennie, for the names and their contact information to register a protest. This makes it so easy to literally add our voices to the protest. Will do this Monday.

    Good question about Ian Lipkin. Here is his contact information: Lipkin, Ian W.
    Title: John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and Professor of Neurology and Pathology and Cell Biology; Director, Center for Infection and Immunity
    Department: Department of Epidemiology
    wil2001@cumc.columbia.edu 1 212 342 9033

    Here is Mady Hornig’s contact information: Mady Hornig
    Title: Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center Tel: 1 212 342 9036 Email: mh2092@cumc.columbia.edu
    Department: Department of Epidemiology

  7. Kathy D. says:

    Yes, all good information. Will email and call Drs. Hornig and Lipkin, and do the rest.

    Do you know what department is sponsoring him? We can also call that number and object to his appearance.

    Thanks for all you do,
    Kathy

  8. May I repost this on my blog? I’d like to draw attention to it.

  9. Justin Reilly says:

    Thanks for this, Jennie!

    I agree 100% about Per Fink, but just want to say, fwiw, there are vaccine safety advocates and clinical and academic physicians who I believe are very credible who support Andrew Wakefield and insist he was railroaded by the Murdoch family (James Murdoch was a Director of Merck), CDC, etc. I have looked somewhat closely at the accusations leveled at Wakefield and they seem quite brittle when given a good look.

    I think you will agree that it’s prudent not to take everything CDC says at face value- especially when it has $Billions to gain or lose every year from a particular scientific issue.

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Wrong. I do not rely on the CDC for my opinion of Wakefield. I rely on the fact that a) he had a direct undisclosed financial conflict of interest in his study, b) the Lancet paper was retracted after that conflict and other aspects of scientific conduct were exposed, and c) Wakefield lost his medical license as a result of the misconduct.

  10. Pingback: ME/CFS Protest of Dr. Per Fink – The Tired Baker

  11. James David Chapman says:

    I know what it is like to be called a liar by M.E patient advocates and I know what it is like to have my platform and all my work for pwme threatened. It’s not very nice at all.

    I’ve had M.E for well over 30yrs. I’d like to hear what Dr Fink has to say. And I’d like for he and others to have the freedom to talk about their work.

    @batteredoldbook

    • Nancy Blake says:

      Hi, I appreciate concern about de-platforming. But a site purporting to provide actual useful information considered accurate and important enough to give CPD credits to practicing doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists should not be giving a platform to a person that will be providing damaging disinformation which will be harmful to patients. His treatment manual, which you can go onto his site and download, indicates that he has no understanding of how to conduct useful psychological treatment, even if psychological treatment were appropriate, which it isn’t. I have warned the organizer that he is likely to be an embarrassment to her. (Also if you study his treatment of Karina Hansen….she was so sick she could barely speak, so when they were forcing her to do GET and she managed to say ‘you are killing me’, this was considered to indicate that the treatment was working because it is a complete sentence. When she had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer possible even to know whether she recognised her family members, she was transferred to a hospital for people with incurable neurological problems. Maybe he wrote up the case admitting the failure of his treatment with her. You could look for it….But do you really want this guy sponsored by a respected University?

      • James David Chapman says:

        Hello there.

        My experiences at the hands of advocates prevent me from taking the M.E patient narrative about Dr Fink at face value.

        I understand you have a view, but would like to hear more from Dr Fink before making up my own mind.

        In regard to my own experiences; I don’t think of them as my being ‘de-platformed’. I think of them as myself and others being bullied.

        @batteredoldbook

  12. Hi Jennie,
    Thanks for getting the info out. Here is a meaction.net webpage that has links to these three actions. If people RSVP on the event page for the protest local organizers will have their contact information to reach them.
    https://www.meaction.net/2018/10/15/3-actions-to-stop-per-fink/

  13. Diwi9 says:

    One response from Columbia University to my email:

    Thank you for sharing with us you concerns about these important matters. I can assure you that the conference committee and I received your email and are taking what you expressed to us very seriously.

    As a clinician and researcher, I am aware that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) brings severe suffering to millions of people around the world, and truly hope that biomedical research will help find cures for this condition. I also want to share that the Organizing Committee of the 4th Psychosomatics Conference and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry affirm our support for the ME/CFS community and state unequivocally that we agree that ME/CFS is a serious multi-system disease associated with neurological, immunological, and energy metabolism impairment. We also support our colleagues at Columbia University’s Center of Infection and Immunity who are using the latest precision-medicine approaches to study the underlying pathophysiology for ME/CFS, with the goal of developing new treatments.

    The 4th annual Psychosomatics Conference hosted by the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Irving Medical Center will not focus on ME/CFS. This conference will address how multidisciplinary approaches in medicine can help patients with persistent somatic symptoms by bringing together clinical researchers with expertise in brain-body interaction in the fields of psychosomatic medicine, gastroenterology, cardiology, and neuropsychiatry.

    Unfortunately, we are unable to answer emails about this matter on an individual basis and to, therefore, address in detail all the points you have raised.

    I am hopeful that recent biomedical research initiatives will move the field forward and lead to the development of new treatments for ME/CFS.

    Sincerely,

    Alla Landa
    __________________________
    Alla Landa, Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry

    Director, Columbia Psychosomatics Conference
    Columbia University Medical Center
    1051 Riverside Dr, New York NY 10032

    • Jennie Spotila says:

      Thank you VERY much for sharing this! I am passing it on to #MEAction.

    • JS says:

      “The 4th annual Psychosomatics Conference hosted by the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Irving Medical Center will not focus on ME/CFS. ”

      Will not FOCUS on ME/CFS.

      One doesn’t have to have to FOCUS on a topic in an hours’ worth of lecture to do great damage.

    • Nancy Blake says:

      Still think he’ll be an embarrassment!

  14. Pingback: Trial By Error: Per Fink in New York

  15. Liz C says:

    Wow, I actually appreciate Dr. Alla Landa’s thoughtful response.

    There are many good researchers at this conference — I saw one does research on how chronic Lyme can affect the mind. I believe the research that shows there a mind-body connection that goes both ways and am interested in what they have to say.

    However, it’s a dissapointment that someone who legally kidnapped a young woman, forcing her into exercise without the mitochondrial capacity to do so, and preventing her from parental contact is being given a platform.

    Psychology can play a role in treating complex illness (as one of many strategies) — but when someone receives a platform to express his view that chronic illness is tied to fear / implied laziness / deconditioning — it tarnishes the field. I can only speak for myself and 12 other people I’ve spoken with with ME/CFS, but it was our initial optimism that was our downfall (I am mostly recovered now), trying to push through — certainly not our fear. There are CBT techniques that can probably help people (as one of many strategies) — but they must start from a place of self-compassion — not be tied to an exercise program that is based on pushing one’s physical limits more each day.

    PS. I hope no one emails Dr. Lipkin — just let the guy focus 100% on his research please. 🙂

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