Everybody should know by now that British citizen Mark Wood starved to death four months after a medical assessment by Atos found him fit for work, even though it was only reported widely yesterday.
The ruling on the 44-year-old was made against the advice of his GP and in the knowledge that Mr Wood – who lived in David Cameron’s Witney constituency – had mental health conditions including phobias of food and social situations. He weighed just 5st 8lbs when he died in August last year.
His GP, Nicolas Ward, told an inquest into Mr Wood’s death: “Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he died and the only thing I can put my finger on is the pressure he felt he was under when his benefits were removed.”
In a normal society operating under the rule of law, that should be enough to trigger a halt on all work capability assessment medical tests while the entire system is examined with a view to preventing further harm. This was discussed in Parliament last week (read my live blog) but because this was a backbench motion the government has insisted that it only needs to take the unanimous vote in favour of the move as “advisory” – and has done nothing.
That is not good enough for many of us. Samuel Miller, the campaigner who has been trying to bring UK government discrimination against the disabled to the attention of international organisations like the United Nations has already signalled that he will be demanding action.
On Twitter yesterday (February 28), he wrote: “I’ll inform the UN’s human rights office… as well as write the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); a corporate manslaughter investigation into Atos and the DWP needs to be opened.
“I’ll also file a criminal complaint against Atos and the DWP with Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service.”
Mr Miller has also been awaiting a ruling from the Information Commissioner on his Freedom of Information request from November 6, 2012, demanding details of post-November 2011 Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimant mortality statistics. The Commission called on the Department for Work and Pensions to come up with a valid reason for its refusal, under the FoI Act and the DWP has failed to provide one so far.
For Mr Miller, the situation has now dragged on far too long. “I’m not going to wait for a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, which I’m unlikely to win. Due to the tragic starvation death of Mark Wood, I’m going to request that the UN’s human rights office obtain a subpoena from the International Criminal Court prosecutor, requiring that the Department for Work and Pensions release the post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics that I requested on November 6, 2012.”
He is also awaiting the findings of an inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, the Bedroom Tax victim who died when she walked in front of a lorry on a busy motorway, after leaving a note blaming the government. That hearing has not yet taken place.
Samuel Miller has cerebral palsy and lives in Canada, and yet he is willing to do all this to correct injustice in the UK. He puts most of us to shame.
Of course, I am looking forward to my tribunal hearing, in which I hope to trigger the release of those post-November 2011 IB and ESA claimant mortality statistics. If Mr Miller manages it first, then my hearing will focus on why my request for the information was dismissed as “vexatious”, as this has serious implications for any future Freedom of Information requests.
I’d like to hear from others who are doing something about this – even if it only comes down to contacting their MP.
Or do you think this man’s death should be in vain?
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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