By Brent L. Handel Q.C.
“We just needed to put to rest, once and for all, the idea that this is just psychosomatic or that people were making this up, or that they were just lazy”. Those are the words of Dr. Ellen Clayton a Professor of Pediatrics and Law at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and Chair of a committee created by the Institute of Medicine to pour over research on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The highly influential and respected Institute of Medicine in the U.S., a non-profit organization that is part of the National Academies, was charged with compiling a report at the request of several U.S. Federal agencies, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services, The National Institutes of Health, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The Food and Drug Administration, and the Social Security Administration. The Institute of Medicine put together a panel of 15 scientists and physicians, some with experience treating Chronic Fatigue patients, to pour over research in the field and diagnostic findings compiled in earlier national and international reports. The report was released on February 10th, 2015.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome /Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, commonly referred to as ME/CFS, is characterized by profound fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep abnormalities, autonomic manifestations, pain, and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion of any sort.
For decades plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers have fought an insurance establishment that, at best, did not understand the condition and usually considered it made up. Compounding the problem was that doubts over the validity of the disease hindered research and prevented possibly hundreds of thousands of people from being properly diagnosed according to The Institute of Medicine Report. Although the panel’s findings do not set policy, The Institute of Medicine is highly regarded and the report likely will become a major tool for defining chronic fatigue syndrome for diagnostic and research purposes in the United States, which will further ground breaking research.
This will result in a seismic shift in the nature of civil litigation for disability claims and auto insurance claims involving ME/CFS. As one member of the panel put it, “this is not a figment of (patients’) imagination. This is an all-too-common, complex disease that needs to be diagnosed”.
What is striking for civil litigation purposes is that Dr. Clayton notes that up to 2.5 million people suffer from ME/CFS in the United States (which would translate into approximately 250,000 in Canada), but the vast majority – more than 80% – have never been diagnosed. Part of the reason for that, we know as civil litigators, is the misunderstanding or lack of information among the primary care physicians and even the specialists the primary care physicians refer the patients to for treatment. Anybody fighting a disability insurer or auto insurer regarding ME/CFS should access this new report from The Institute of Medicine and utilize such quotes from the panel of experts as follows, “We want to reaffirm that this is a serious illness that causes a lot of adverse symptoms. It can cause a lot of disability for patients, and it needs to be recognized as such.” A plaintiffs’ personal injury civil litigator could not have put it better. To read the full report go to : http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2015/NE-CFS.aspx