Ean Proctor is an information systems manager and a sport photographer from the Isle of Man, UK, who developed a severe case of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as a child. His misdiagnosis and mistreatment by psychiatrists made international news.
In 1986, when he was eleven years old, Ean developed a flu-like illness that presented with fever, sore throat, headache, stomach ache, swollen glands, malaise, and a prolonged course. It later progressed to include severe muscle weakness, loss of balance, inability to concentrate, difficulty speaking and reading, and photophobia. His parents took him to many doctors, both local and in Liverpool and London, but when they were unable to agree on a diagnosis, he was told he had "school phobia" and an "over-protective mother." When he was 13-years-old, he was removed from his home against his parents' wishes and hospitalized under a "Place of Safety Order."
While in the hospital his health deteriorated as he was subjected to inhumane treatments: being placed into a therapy pool to force him to use his arms to swim, although he was unable to and would sink underwater; being left in urine soaked clothes from wetting himself as no one would help him to the bathroom; only being allowed visits from his family for a half hour a day; and confiscating his dark glasses despite having photophobia.
After a lengthy court battle and confirmation of his ME diagnosis from other physicians, he was discharged back to home after nearly six months in the hospital. He remained a Ward of Court but was allowed to see doctors who treated his physical symptoms.Sir Simon Wessely, a British psychiatrist, who is a psychological paradigm proponent, was one of the consulting psychiatrists who recommended to the Principal Social Worker on the Isle of Man that Ean be removed from his family. Later, Wessely defended the paediatricians on the Isle of Man for that action and denied knowing anything about Ean's case, stating to an TV interviewer, “You know very well I know nothing about these cases. I think it’s so rare [to remove a child from his home]. I mean, it’s never happened to me.” Despite claiming to "know nothing" about Ean's removal from his home, Wessely's letter to Ean's paediatricians dated June 3, 1988, shows otherwise and was one of the main reasons the forced removal happened:
"Ean presented with a history of an ability [sic] to use any muscle group which amounted to a paraplegia, together with elective mutatism [sic]. I did not perform a physical examination but was told that there was no evidence of any physical pathology...I was in no doubt that the primary problem was psychiatric [and] that his apparent illness was out of all proportion to the original cause. I feel that Ean’s parents are very over involved in his care. I have considerable experience in the subject of ‘myalgic encephalomyelitis’ and am absolutely certain that it did not apply to Ean. I feel that Ean needs a long period of rehabilitation [which] will involve separation from his parent. For this reason, I support the application made by your department for wardship.”
Complaints and controversy about Ean's treatment continued for years as different health care providers gave widely different accounts of Ean's reaction to treatment, such as one who said "he had a transparent look and the aroma of death. A cold would have taken him" and others saying he fared better under hospitalization. Simon Wessely refuses to discuss Ean's case any further.
Talks & Interviews
- 2010, ME/CFS patients do hard time in mental wards and foster care
- 2005, To set the record straight about Ean Proctor from the Isle of Man
- 2003, THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT: PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
- 1994, [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1485798/pdf/cmaj00281-0068.pdf "Isle of Man provides unique forum for presenting health care grievances"
- 1993, Transcript of Frontline documentary on ME from 1993
- 1989, Ean's Story - Interaction, Issue 3 Autumn 1989 - Barbara Proctor, Mother
- ME is still not taken seriously