George Berger on Gordon Waddell and the Origins of the Work Capability Test

A few weeks ago I blogged about a piece on Mike’s site, Vox Political, by Mo Stewart describing Unum’s role in formulating the fitness for work test. This is the prize piece of pseudoscience used by the DWP and Atos to deny people welfare benefits on the grounds that, no matter how ill or disabled they are, they are still somehow ‘fit for work’. In the most extreme cases, this has resulted in terminally ill people having their disability benefit removed and blandly informed that they will have to be reassessed. Just in case, you understand, that they get better.

One of the commenters on the piece was George Berger, who kindly informed me of his piece on the DPAC website tracing the origins of the fitness for work test in the bizarre theories of Gordon Waddell. Mr Berger commented:

It seems that the historical source is Waddell’s work on back pain and non-organic signs. That was imaginatively extended to “invisible illnesses.” The back pain work was heavily criticised by medical people in his specialism, yet he seems to have been protected by Aylward and maybe others. I did not know about the purely medical critique when I wrote this.

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/09/gordon-waddells-biopsychosocial-attack-on-disabled-people/

As you can see from the link, it’s entitled Gordon Waddell’s Biophysical Attack on Disabled People.

Gordon Waddell was a highly respected orthopaedic surgeon, who drew on George Engels’ holistic theories of the origin of disease. Engels believed that for patients to be made better, the healer should address all aspects of their condition, including its social and psychological components. Waddell, however, perverted this into the current government policy that sees patients as essentially malingerers. In his papers ‘Nonorganic Physical Signs in Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume 5, number 7, 117-125); and ‘A New Clinical Model for the Treatment of Low-Back Pain’ (Spine, volume12 number 7, 632-644), published in 1980 and 1987, Waddell stated that there were symptoms in lower back pain that had no physical cause. He believed these were entirely psychological in origin. These non-organic symptoms in turn produced depression, a feeling that treatment hadn’t worked, and encouraged the patient to adopt a ‘sick role’. Mr Berger quotes from Waddell’s 1998 book, The Back Pain Revolution, ‘that illness behaviour quite often ‘focuses on money and implies malingering,’ and that it ‘may depend more on… psychologic events than on the underlying physical problem’ (1998: 216, 227).’

George Berger states that Waddell’s scientific methodology is simply wrong, and that it was strongly influenced by Skinner’s Behaviourism, which in turn has been categorically demolished by none other than that great American radical, Noam Chomsky, amongst others.

Despite its falsity, it has been seized upon by New Labour and Tory governments determined to cut the welfare bill. Waddell’s ideas on pain and malingering were taken up by Atos at a conference in 2004. Another doctor, Christopher Bass, used his biopsychosocial theories to explain chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic low-back pain, repetitive strain injury and non-cardiac chest pain, as all essentially psychological malingering. Waddell’s ideas were taken up by UnumProvident, the American insurance fraudster, whose head, John LoCascio, attended a conference at Oxford on malingering and illness deception. The corporation then set up the UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University. Finally, in 2006 Waddell and A. Kim Burton wrote that ‘Work is generally good for health and well-being’, a line now repeated ad nauseam by the cretins now stuffing the DWP under Esther McVile and Iain ‘Tosser’ Duncan Smith.

There’s far more over in George Berger’s original article, and it’s definitely worth reading for anyone interested in a very scholarly destruction of this pernicious piece of pseudoscience.

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9 Responses to “George Berger on Gordon Waddell and the Origins of the Work Capability Test”

  1. sdbast Says:

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. loobitzh Says:

    Reblogged this on Lindas Blog.

  3. Chris Says:

    …Waddell stated that there were symptoms in lower back pain that had no physical cause …

    All back pain has a physical cause.

    Human beings were never designed to walk upright, but on all fours.

    Some postulate that we walked in the sea as we began on an island.

    I have osteoarthritis and cannot even swim without my back locking up, because of the strain of keeping my neck at an unusual angle that impacts the whole of my spine.

    But if I walk upright into the sea up to me armpits, I can walk because my body’s total weight is not bearing down on my legs and the base of my spine, where the whole weight of the body is felt.

    We are just as poorly designed to sit and use a computer all day long.

    Sitting and computer use ages the body, the back, the neck, the arms, the wrists, the hands, and the eyes.

    Nintendo thumb is the numbness / loss of blood circulation that happens from too much texting.

    To say back pain is all in the mind is so daft as to, indeed, be pseudo science quackery.

    These gentlemen are showing a basic lack of knowledge of human anatomy and stress on the spine of the human being.

    Long before we had benefit money to be so-called malingers, ancient skeletions have been found to have osteoarthritis back into the old stone age.

    The bad back is indeed arthritis throughout the body’s entire boney skeleton. It never just sits in the back, nor one knee, nor gets better with time, but only progresses with age.

    There is no cure for osteo or rheumatoid arthritis.

    There are figures out there of about 9 million sufferers of osteoarthritis in the UK, with far fewer and worse condition of rheumatoid arthritis.

    Working with a bad back, can make the condition more serious and lock the back so you can neither turn your head from right to left but fixed facing forward and your waist cannot bend.

    It is also against health and safety at work.

    And work does not pay for the poorest worker, but then that is another tale.

  4. George Berger on Gordon Waddell and the Origins of the Work Capability Test – Beastrabban’s Weblog | Vox Political Says:

    […] Further to today’s article about the death toll of Tory evidenceless policies, here’s Beastrabban on the origins of the homicidal Work Capability Assessment. He writes: […]

  5. samedifference1 Says:

    Reblogged this on Same Difference.

  6. Methusalada Says:

    Reblogged this on Methusalada.

  7. A6er Says:

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

  8. eegginton59 Says:

    Reblogged this on eegginton59.

  9. Mo Stewart Says:

    No idea where the idea arose that Waddell had any influence on UnumProvident Insurance? The bogus BPS model of assessment was being used by Unum in America long before they opened the Centre at Cardiff and the UK Gvt were in consultation with Unum long before the introduction of the WCA.

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