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Mark Wood: Had Food Phobia, Starved To Death After Atos Decision

February 28, 2014

A “VULNERABLE and fragile” man starved to death four months after most of his benefits were stopped and he was left with just £40 a week to survive on.


Atos Healthcare – which assesses peoples’ ability to work on behalf of the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – ruled that 44-year-old Mark Wood, from Bampton, was fit to work.


But at an inquest into his death, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard testimony that Mr Wood was far from fit to hold down a job.


Weighing just 5st 8lbs when he died of malnutrition in August last year, Mr Wood had obsessive compulsive disorder, Aspergers syndrome, phobias of food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems.


His GP Nicolas Ward told yesterday’s proceedings: “He was an extremely vulnerable and fragile individual who was coping with life.


“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.”


Dr Ward, from Bampton Medical Practice, said he had not been contacted by either Atos or DWP about Mr Wood’s medical history, and revealed that if they had asked for his professional opinion he would have said Mr Wood was unfit for work.


Mr Wood had been receiving housing benefit, employment and support allowance, and disability living allowance of £40 a week and had been living independently since 2006.


But in January last year Atos Healthcare ruled that Mr Wood was healthy and able to work. Following its assessment, in about April last year, Mr Wood’s housing benefits and employment support allowance were stopped by the DWP, leaving just the disability allowance.


The inquest heard he was not able to pay his rent of utility bills.


Mr Wood’s family claim their “gentle and sweet” son and brother would still be alive if his benefits had not been stopped.


His sister Cathie Wood, 48, from North Oxford, told the Oxford Mail: “Atos are completely to blame. If they had not evaluated him as normal he would have carried on in his own way and would not have died last summer.”


His mother Jill Gant, from Abingdon, explained to the coroner that the family only found out Mr Wood did not have any money a few weeks before he died and sent him £250.


Ms Wood said: “By then it was too late, he was so fragile and unstable. We didn’t realise how bad things were.


“He found it difficult to accept help from his family because he tried to live independently so he gave the money away.


“He had a lot of problems, but he was very gentle and sweet.”


At the inquest, Mrs Gant said: “I think he died of the severe effects of malnutrition, but there were precipitating causes.


“Extreme stress and lack of money caused by the removal of his benefits led to his eating problems, and malnutrition led to his death.”


Between April – around the time his benefits stopped – and his death his body mass index plunged from 14.1 to about 11.5. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy.


Pathologist Clare Verrill told the court a BMI below 13 could kill a man but a cause of death could not be given because his body had decomposed. Mr Wood had last been seen alive on July 29 but his body was not discovered until August 9.


Oxfordshire Coroner Darren Salter gave a narrative verdict at the inquest. He said: “Mr Wood had an eating disorder and food phobia. It is likely that this caused or contributed to his death as he was markedly underweight and malnourished.”


He added: “I accept the evidence about something pushing him over the edge heard by the GP Mr Ward.


On the other hand we do know cash was provided prior to death, but because of his phobias he didn’t use that cash to buy food.”


His family are meeting Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood next Friday to try to find out why he was declared fit for work. Ms Wood said they may consider legal proceedings.


Atos Healthcare spokeswoman Tessa David said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Mr Wood at this difficult time.


“We carry out the Government’s Work Capability Assessment as professionally and compassionately as possible.”


DWP spokesman Ann Rimell said: “A decision on whether someone is well enough to work is taken following a thorough assessment and after consideration of all the supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist.”


DWP figures show that between October 2010 and March 2013, more than 1,000 people across Oxfordshire stopped receiving employment and support allowance benefits.


Suzy Drohan, joint manager of Barton’s Oxfordshire Welfare Rights, said: “It is terrible, I’m really concerned about how Mr Wood has fallen through the cracks.”


Between January 2012 and January this year Oxfordshire Welfare Rights took 312 cases to tribunal appeals against DWP decisions, and 281 were successful.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. jeffrey davies permalink
    February 28, 2014 1:04 pm

    it wasn’t us it wasn’t us yet again we hear the sams drivel we take care in take care my foot they use atos to score your points them dwp takes away your monies but it isn’t uswas the cry another poor poor soul collected before his due date the dwp wishes its nothing but two faced run by afruadster ids jeff3

  2. February 28, 2014 4:15 pm

    Hearing/reading stuff like this makes me more and more worried that I’m going to get badly messed around by ATOS. I’ve already been messed about by the DWP – waiting over three months to even hear a reply about my PIP claim, they mangled my ESA claim so badly (then told me that my only option was to cancel it) that I have no idea where I even stand with that at the moment. I have a lady from the local CAB fighting my corner but she is so overworked.
    She’s apparently pushing for me to not have to attend an ATOS assessment as my problems are so severe and it would exacerbate them, but no idea how well that is going to go. I think that’s my only hope, I’m doomed otherwise!

    • Miss Castello permalink
      February 28, 2014 7:59 pm

      Reply to ‘unexpected monkey’.

      “stuff like this”- How dare you. You’re talking of a man, a human being, who has just died in tragic circumstances. He is not “stuff”. Do you actually have a comment, an expression of sympathy? Or is it all about you? If so, you really are doomed.

      • February 28, 2014 8:32 pm

        I meant articles like this, I did not mean to offend in any way and I apologise that I somehow have. No need at all to react like that at all.

      • Miss Castello permalink
        February 28, 2014 10:20 pm

        “no need at all to react like that at all.”

        On whose judgement? Yours? You tell me, then. How SHOULD I have reacted? Say nothing? Do nothing? To suit you? I don’t think so.

      • March 1, 2014 1:46 am

        Miss Castello I think your reaction to unexpectedmonkeys comment is OTT and very rude!

  3. February 28, 2014 4:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  4. February 28, 2014 6:15 pm

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  5. beastrabban permalink
    February 28, 2014 8:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog.

  6. March 1, 2014 1:35 am

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog.

  7. March 1, 2014 12:36 pm

    im thinking that ATOS rep said… they take into consideration medical evidence from GPs and other health professionals…yet Dr Ward said , he had not been approached at all about this poor man…. more lies from THE NOT GIVING ATOS lot.

    and yes i agree with Susan Mitton (@suemitton1) on Miss Castello’s tirade against someone who is feeling very worried, very vulnerable. you ,miss castello, could very well have pushed him over the brink with your nasty remarks. you have no idea what others are going through. when you are overwhelmed with so many conditions, one after another being thrown at you, you have no respite from thinking about how things are affecting you or going to affect you, i know, ive been there. had a nervous breakdown after having 26 new conditions found from minor to major over a 6yr period. (another 3 since in the last 18months.) and believe me, in this day and age if you dont think of yourself . who the hell is going to???? . yes perhaps he could have had a little sympathy for the man. but unfortunately that man is no longer with us. but those surviving (and i mean surviving) in the same position or potentially so, have to think of themselves.

    • Miss Castello permalink
      March 1, 2014 1:31 pm

      “you have no idea” etc.

      How do you know what my “ideas” are? You don’t. You merely assume. Wrongly. I need no lectures from you on emotional trauma or cruel bureaucracy, hell-bent on making peoples lives a misery on a scale we’ve never seen before. I’ve lived through it. I know exactly what it’s like to lie awake all night, dreading the day to come and the ‘medical ‘ which can make or break you. But I could still spare a thought for others in the same boat. Which is why I reacted as I did to unexpected monkeys comment. If I was over harsh, I apologise.

  8. Miss Castello permalink
    March 1, 2014 12:49 pm

    Susan Mitton; I think your LACK of reaction to not one single reference in unexpected monkeys comment for the man who died, says more about you than it does about me. End of.


  1. Disabled Mark Wood starved to death after benefits cut when Atos declared him fit for work – Mirror Online « Dr Alf's Blog

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