[BPSDB]I do not recall hearing anything about Doctor Sarah Myhill until I read this thread on the Bad Science forum. In the opening post forum member Jonas expressed some concerns about information on Dr Myhill’s website and added that he had reported it to the General Medical Council.
There was some discussion about it but the thread would probably have died a death after a few pages. However it was discovered by posters at Phoenix Rising, a forum for sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, who interpreted Jonas’ post as an attack on CFS/ME sufferers and proceeded to post some extremely abusive comments on the thread. When other Bad Science members took them to task for this and pointed out that Jonas’ complaint made no mention of CFS, they too were subject to ill-mannered intemperate rants and accused of being part of some conspiracy to suppress Dr Myhill’s ‘ground-breaking’ treatments for CFS/ME, citing the fact that Jonas’ complaint to the GMC had been “anonymous”. In fact the GMC knew very well who s/he is but they had not passed on his details to Dr Myhill or anyone else. Given the abuse being posted on Bad Science by Myhill supporters, this was probably just as well.
Their points were addressed by Jonas and other posters. At which point other new posters appeared and made exactly the same points. The thread grew rapidly from this point. At the time of writing it is almost 200 pages long and growing by the hour. Wading through this I learned that there have been previous complaints about Dr Myhill, that she had ignored previous GMC advice to amend her website and that a group of doctors in Yorkshire have also complained about poor and possibly dangerous advice she is offering.
It became apparent that many of the posters felt utterly dependent on Dr Myhill and her untrialled treatments. She perhaps cannot be blamed for this but she can be blamed for rallying them to email the GMC on her behalf and encourage them to hold a protest outside the building where her hearing took place. At this point she began to look less like a rather wooish doctor and more like a cult leader.
Meanwhile, her supporters continued to push the conspiracy angle, accusing Dr Ben Goldacre, the Bad Science site owner, of orchestrating a campaign against Dr Myhill. In fact, Dr Goldacre had nothing to do with the complaint and had not posted anything on the thread. Despite this, Myhill supporters began claiming that Dr Goldacre should be struck off and even placed a question on Yahoo to this effect. It was quickly deleted so they probably now believe that Yahoo is part of the anti-Myhill plot.
At the hearing, Dr Myhill herself focussed on Jonas’ identity, as if this actually mattered and ignored the concerns raised by Jonas and other doctors (perhaps they are part of the conspiracy too). She also conflated elements of two of Jonas’ Bad Science posts ignoring the actual concerns but including his auto-signature – a perhaps unfortunate Dara O’Briain quote:
People who live in glass houses should masturbate in the basement
She and her supporters have frequently referred to this – I can only guess that she thinks it refers to her in some way.
I gather from some of the comments posted on Bad Science by CFS/ME sufferers (by no means all of them were abusive, many were perfectly sensible but they were drowned out by their ranty co-sufferers) that they think that their condition is largely ignored by the medical profession. Given that, it is not surprising that many turn to cranks such as Doctor Myhill. However, she does them no favours by doing nothing to counter their belief that they are dependent on her and only her. Furthermore, if their letters and emails to the GMC are anything like their posts on Bad Science, they will have given the impression that large numbers of CFS sufferers are barking mad. This is hardly likely to encourage the medical profession to take more interest in them.
Doctor Myhill and the Phoenix Rising members may believe that they are acting for the interests CFS/ME sufferers. In fact their cultish behaviour is likely to marginalise the condition yet further. The Law of Unintended Consequences in action.
ETA. The above has been corrected slightly to take into account comments made on Bad Science Forum