Danes Redefine Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS as a Mental Disorder

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

It looks like it's time for me to climb back up on my soapbox. I recently learned about a story that has left me shocked and outraged.

(Note: As the story progresses, you will see how eerily and horribly prophetic their use of the word "capture" turned out to be.)

Some of the reclassified illnesses included:

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

  • Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

  • Chronic Pain

  • Chronic Acute Whiplash Associated Disorders

  • Non-cardiac Chest Pain

While papers like this are disturbing, with all of the evidence showing biological abnormalities in most of these diseases, I wouldn't have expected this one little paper to carry much weight. Boy, was I wrong Apparently official Danish agencies accepted "bodily distress syndrome" as a legitimate diagnosis and used it as grounds for the shocking action they would soon take.

Danish Officials Literally Capture ME/CFS Patient

At this point the story jumps forward to February 12, 2013. On that day, Danish officials - including five police officers, two doctors, two social workers and a locksmith - came to the home of Karina Hansen, a 24-year-old Danish woman diagnosed with M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis), forcibly removed her from her bed and took her to Hammel Neurocenter. To add insult to injury, Karina's parents have been prohibited from visiting her.

Karina's "crime"? She and her parents chose not to accept the type of treatment the Research Clinic for Functional Disorders and Psychosomatics offered, opting instead to pay for a private physician and dietician to treat Karina because they all felt strongly that the treatment being offered - cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), graded exercise therapy (GET) and possibly antidepressants - would be detrimental to her.

According to an August 28, 2013 update, Hammel Neurocenter is claiming Karina has a psychiatric condition and refusing to acknowledge that she has M.E. Her parents continue to be banned from visiting her.

For more information about this story and suggestions of what you can do to help, see "A CALL TO ACTION! RELEASE KARINA HANSEN!"

My Thoughts...

It's unthinkable - and more than a little frightening - that such a thing could happen in what I had thought was a country that honored personal freedom and human rights.

Admittedly, before this story, I knew little about Denmark's government or health care system. A bit of research revealed that their government is a constitutional monarchy that operates within the framework of a parliamentary, representative democracy. In addition to a universal health care system which covers all Danish citizens and residents, they have an optional private health care sector where users can choose to pay for treatments.

If Danish citizens have the right to choose the optional private health care, how does the government justify their actions against Karina? There has to be something behind this. Is there a political vendetta against her parents for some reason? Is the Danish government using Karina to scare other patients who have these difficult-to-manage illnesses away from seeking costly medical care?

I'm deeply concerned for Karina's well-being. I'm also concerned for all of us who have one or more of these so-called "functional" illnesses. Denmark is setting a very bad precedent. If their actions are allowed to stand, how long will it be until other countries follow suit? After all, it's a lot cheaper to diagnose patients as having a mental disorder and treat them with CBT and GET than it is to run tests and treat their actual physical ailments.

Am I over-reacting? I don't think so. Around the time Karina was being dragged off to a psychiatric facility, I told you about the new DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnostic category - Somatic Symptom Disorder - which could be used in much the same way as bodily distress syndrome is being used in Denmark. A scary prospect for all of us.

Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.