Suicide happens when the government tells depressed people they are faking their symptoms

Thanks are due once again to John Pring at the Disability News Service, for finding a direct relationship between the death of former benefit claimant Michael O’Sullivan and the philosophy behind the benefit-restriction regime that found him “fit for work” when he was, in fact, suicidal.

At his inquest in early 2014, the doctor who assessed Mr O’Sullivan as “fit for work” admitted that he had not asked whether the deceased had suicidal thoughts because he “looked okay”. He said although Mr O’Sullivan had looked “a bit stressed”, this was normal for people who claimed they were depressed, and was a sign that they were worried they might lose their benefits.

He went on to say ESA claimants sometimes fake their symptoms when asked that question in assessments.

In some ways it may be just as well that Mr O’Sullivan was not asked about suicidal thoughts, because we know the next question would have been “Why haven’t you acted on those thoughts?” – or words to that effect.

The philosophy that informs all of this behaviour had its origins in the ‘Malingering and Illness Deception’ conference held near Oxford in November 2001, when people like Mansel Aylward, then-chief medical officer for the Department for Work and Pensions, and John LoCascio, of the criminal American insurance giant Unum, persuaded fellow attendees that many claimants of incapacity benefits had become “malingerers” due to the generosity of the payments then offered by the system – payments none of these people were ever likely to have needed, which had in fact lost value over the time period mentioned.

They presented a case for treating all future claimants of sickness benefits as bogus until proven otherwise – and it is this model that informed the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance in 2008.

The Atos doctor was merely reacting in line with the instructions he had received from his employers – who had in turn received theirs from the DWP.

There is no medical evidence to support the ‘malingering and illness deception’ claims.

Michael O’Sullivan’s daughter, Anne-Marie, has described the evidence given at the inquest by the former orthopaedic surgeon who assessed her father in March 2013, on behalf of the government contractor Atos Healthcare.

During his evidence, the assessor admitted that he had not asked O’Sullivan whether he had suicidal thoughts, because he thought he “looked OK”.

The Atos doctor, who said he had worked for the company for 15 years, wrote in three places on the WCA form that O’Sullivan had “no ideas of self-harm”, even though he had failed to ask him this question and O’Sullivan had made it clear on the pre-assessment form that he had suicidal thoughts.

O’Sullivan’s GP, psychiatrist and psychologist all gave evidence to the inquest to say that he had been showing obvious signs of depression and anxiety.

But the Atos doctor claimed that although O’Sullivan had looked “a bit stressed”, this was perfectly normal for people who claimed they were depressed, and was just a sign that they were worried about losing their benefits.

And when asked why he failed to ask O’Sullivan if he had had any suicidal thoughts, he suggested that ESA claimants sometimes fake their symptoms when asked that question in assessments.

Source: Michael O’Sullivan scandal: Inquest notes expose shocking failings of WCA system

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18 thoughts on “Suicide happens when the government tells depressed people they are faking their symptoms

  1. James Mansell

    Some in this world, care for fellow man,
    Some in this world, care and take a stand,
    Some in this world, collect and they hoard,
    Those ones are known, as the workers compensation board…
    Some in this world, get injured at work,
    Some in this world, end up dealing with a jerk,
    Some in this world, hope to someday get well,
    But end up going, through WCB hell,           

    Some in this world, the laws they abide,
    They beg and they plead, WCB throws them aside,
    When the government ignores, and says they won’t help,
    The poor injured worker, let’s out a yelp,
    As they lay there wondering, how to live without pride,
    The poor disabled worker, commits suicide,
    So WCB employees, Better run and hide,
    A six by six cell, you’ll soon be inside…
                                      By James Mansell

  2. Josef K

    The doctor in question was not “merely” following instructions (not to much different from “just following orders”) but had fundamentally turned their back on the basic principles of being a doctor. The oath was nowhere in sight, this wasn’t about not doing any harm, we couldn’t even get to giving a toss about the individual.

    There has been, on record, three other health care professionals who state clearly the condition of Mr. O’Sullivan which would lead to the very distinct possible that the doctor in question falsified the record of Mr. O’Sullivan. Having been a paramedic for many years I know that the HCPC (our professional body) will strike any of the professions that they regulate from the register if they did such an action. What is the GMC doing with regards professional misconduct?

    I would suggest that any individual that does suffer at the hands of these creatures register a formal complaint with the individuals regulatory body. You will quite possibly not get far with the GMC but the NMC and HCPC are a different kettle of fish. Start bringing a real possibility that taking up a position to do harm could lead to you being struck off may alter the incumbent staffs approach and just make the job not look that attractive to others thinking of injuring the vulnerable even more. To me they are all a disgrace to the professions.

    No point in calling the people names,let’s make their professional lives as difficult as they want to make sick people’s lives.

    Please keep up the good work Mike.

    1. Dez

      excellent strategy Josef….might get them to act more professionally instead of treating their interviews as a mere rubber stamp process. With many of these medical assessors now being recruited from nurses and paramedics maybe this reporting threat will focus their minds on the outcome of their negligent decisions.

      1. Phil Lee

        This case (and I’m sure, others, if we only had the full facts) goes WAY beyond professional misconduct, and possibly even criminal negligence. Why is this abusive individual not named? Hiding his identity is surely a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, as it is protecting a criminal (who is clearly unfit to practice basket weaving, never mind as a doctor) from prosecution.

  3. amnesiaclinic

    Well done John Pring and you Mike in highlighting this.
    I hope all this evidence is being given to the UN tribunal because there is only the same callous non-reply from the DWP and there is not enough pressure from them to change from the coroners.
    Tragic. All his daughter is asking for is a fairer and supportive system and to stop the ‘assessments’ until this is in place.
    A fair request to put to your MP, please, so we can stop these tragedies.

  4. Dez

    At least the doctor was sort of honest in his answers even though he had totally ignored, or missed, the pre-assessment suicidal statement. How can one make no self-harming statements if the question was not asked or physical examination had not taken place? Some doctors who still have integrity, and a mind to fair play, would or should have called for or referred to back-up information from the claimants own GPs and consultants instead of just rubber-stamping the company party line of guilty until proved innocent. The stench from this process is unbelievable and hopefully more Coroners will be alive now to what is going on in the dark side. I think it also reinforces the need to have a witness or third party present at these interviews as they can no longer be trusted to record even basic facts as they are so blinkered by the “they are all malingerers” party line.

  5. AndyH

    So if you’re not stressed, you can function fine and if you are stressed you are shamming? Why is worrying about loss of benefit a sign of malingering?

  6. Sad

    My mother suffered severe depression and was thinking of suicide when i was a child, she went to her doctor who happened to be a woman who’s religion was jw .
    She talked to my mother and told her there was no help for her unless she had tried to commit suicide ! My mother overdosed after this and was found by me unconscious but still breathing, I was age 8. Why are Doctors so detached when they should show care ?
    This memory is instilled in me forever what have we learned in forty years….nothing !

  7. Florence

    Have a pal who had an assessment this week. Desperately ill including physical and MH issues, they had a care worker present for the examination at home. (The assessor turned up early before the care worker arrived, but pal told them they couldn’t start until there was support present, as I had warned of this type of trick.) Even so the assessor kept on asking for physical tasks to be done, and when told (or demonstrated) that it couldn’t be done, were said repeatedly that they “were not trying hard enough”, ie faking symptoms, but failed to address the MH issues. Now waiting for decision.

    Looks like another appeal in the making. If this person didn’t have support, I wonder what would have actually happened, and what would be the outcome?

  8. Dez

    Florence, Good to know they are still using that old “trick ‘n treat” formula turning up early….along with dropping pens, talking softly to test hearing levels all straight out of the covert assessors low life tricks manual. Hope your pal has some honest scores but from the tone of the conversation and disbelief of the physical task test it does not sound to encouraging or that sympathy being shown.

  9. Ros Reynolds

    as I keep saying but for some reason you always ban my posts. For every suicide there are a dozen who attempted and luckily were found just in time. I am sure if you checked the workload of mental health teams you will find a substantial spike that proves the DWP are causing unnecessary stress with their forms and assessments to the most vulnerable.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t recall banning any of your posts but one sure way to achieve that result in the future will be to suggest that I do.

  10. odettegreyling

    When I lived in England I showed clear signs of depression but was never allowed to see a psycologist or Psyciatrist. When I went to have my medication refilled, the doctor on duty refused to do so and told me to go for a run. I was asked to write a letter to state my need for help, where I said clearly that I do not know how long I will be able to fight off the impulsion to walk in front a bus. A year later the letter was returned…unopened. My brother called emergency when I took an overdose one night and the nurse told me if I feel any worse after an hour, I should call again. No one came. I was lucky to have woken up the next day.

    2 years later I was diagnosed with bpd and bipolar 2 in Spain after multipule suicide attempts and after I had cut my arms to shreds. They have never let me down. They have never suggested I am faking anything. Ever!

    There is no such thing as ‘following orders’ when it comes to any life threatening illnesses. The discrimination against mental illnesses are apaling. Would a doctor treat anyone with a more phisically visible illness this way?

  11. mrmarcpc

    Doesn’t matter, you’re going to get told you’re fine, no matter what you’re suffering from, that’s their agenda, to not listen to a word you’re saying and to shaft you and to cause you as much distress as possible, so you will kill yourself!

Comments are closed.