Gulf war illness

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7086.1041 (Published 05 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1041

Why it took so long to decide to investigate

  1. Peter Beale, Chief medical advisera
  1. a British Red Cross Society, London SW1X 7EJ
  2. b Royal British Legion, London SW1Y 5JY

    Editor—As it is now six years since the Gulf war, it is reasonable to ask why the problem of Gulf war syndrome has not been resolved.1 As surgeon general in 1991-4 I want to comment on the unravelling timetable during these six years.

    At no time have we denied that Gulf veterans have been ill–indeed, whenever possible we have actively recommended their appropriate medical management. Secondly, despite press reports, we have always kept an open mind on the presence of a specific Gulf war syndrome.

    The Gulf conflict in 1990-1 itself was short, casualties mercifully few, and the sickness rates unremarkable; likewise, when troops returned to the UK the daily sickness rate did not increase. Also at that stage little evidence existed of psychiatric illness or post- traumatic stress syndrome.

    Some 18 to 24 months later, however, we became aware of a campaign by lawyers to recognise a specific Gulf …

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