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