A disabled man whose suicide led a coroner to deliver a ground-breaking verdict that his death was triggered by being found “fit for work” had already tried to take his own life because of government attempts to force him back to work.
The case of Michael O’Sullivan caused a national outcry when it was revealed that coroner Mary Hassell had written to the government about the case, demanding action from the Department for Work and Pensions to prevent the deaths of other disabled people.
The circumstances surrounding Mr O’Sullivan’s death on 23 September 2013 raise even graver concerns about the government’s back-to-work policies than previously thought:
- Michael O’Sullivan had tried to take his own life the previous year after being forced by DWP to attend a training course, where he was tormented and harassed by other much younger jobseekers
- His first assessment by an Atos “healthcare professional”, in August 2012, lasted just 12 minutes
- The former surgeon who carried out his second assessment, in March 2013, took 31 minutes to assess him, and just another 11 minutes to fill in the necessary paperwork
- The 60-year-old – terrified that he would lose his benefits if he failed to attend but unable to cope with the idea of being surrounded by other workers – took his own life hours before he was due to start a four-week work placement on a building-site
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