CF Sainthood

I have written before about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).  Or ME as some people call it. Not very interesting for people who do not have it, but really quite interesting indeed for people who have. So If you haven’t, you might well well want to move on now to something else. If you have, you might want to read on.

Doctors have to respect patient confidentiality, and good manners suggest reciprocity. But on this one, I am going to name names, and tell it like it is.

Towards the end of last year, I thought it might make sense to just check if there were any developments I ought ot know about in relation to CFS.  I am not a big victim.  I ached throughout my body – not a huge lot – all the time, and felt really, really tired a good deal of the the time.  CFS seems to be like malaria; once you have had it, you never quite get rid of it. At least, that is what I have been told about malaria – I have never had it.  But I have had 15 years of CFS, and it is, frankly, tedious.

Anyway, a bit of research revealed that Adelaide’s guru on it is Dr Ian Buttfield. He is a controversial figure, because he also has a speciality in serious chronic pain. For people in pain so bad that they are are the verge of suicide, he has prescribed correspondingly serious pain-relieving drugs.  His patients think him little short of a saint; there are several press reports to this effect. The Medical Board of South Australia has taken a different view, but it is hard to disagree with the South Australian Parliament’s Statutory Authorities Review Committee interim report in 2006 that:

The Committee was informed that the effect of the complaints brought against these three practitioners was as follows:

  • Dr Buttfield – continued harassment by the Board.

The Committee finds the manner in which the Board has handled complaints is extremely poor, both from the point of the consumer and the
medical practitioner. The Committee believes that the Board is not the appropriate authority to investigate complaints or undertake disciplinary
hearings, although it should have a continuing role to play in terms of registration, developing codes of conduct and ensuring high standards of
Recommendation 4 The Medical Board of South Australia be stripped of its powers to investigate complaints and undertake disciplinary hearings in relation to medical practitioners, providers and medical students.

As a result of that interim report, the whole of the Board was replaced – which was a considerable vindication of Dr Buttfield. Anyway, I went to see him, and was duly impressed: he immediately showed an understanding of what CFS is all about.  After a few minutes, he lunged at me without warning, and I yelped in pain. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Oow!

Dr Buttfield: Thought so!  You ache pretty much all the time, don’t you?

Me: Yes.

Dr Buttfield:  That is because you have poly fibromyalgia.  Not surprising. About 70 – 80% of CFS sufferers have it.  It is the PFM that makes you you ache, and it is the constant aching that makes you tired.  We can’t get rid if it, but we can treat its effect, which will make you feel much less tired.

And so it was. He put me on the smallest possible dose of valium, and I do not ache all the time any more.  That was some months ago: I am much less tired.  Brilliant.

I am not a doctor, and I have no idea if this is the answer for other CFS sufferers. But I do find two things pretty odd:

  • That the only doctor in the state who has seems to know how to fix the seriously tedious impact of CFS has been given such a hard time by the powers that be (or rather, the powers that were) in South Australia, and
  • That fixing the effects of CFS in this way is not more often done.

Personally, I have joined the ranks of those who think Ian Buttfield is a bit of a saint.

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