Posts Tagged ‘Holistic Healing’

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

February 9, 2015

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.

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.