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You may not remember the name Stephen Smith, but his body is hard to forget: a photo taken by the Liverpool Echo emerged in February that showed a skeletal Smith sitting in a hospital gown, his spine protruding from his six-stone frame. He had just had his disability benefits stopped.

It quickly became one of the most notorious images illustrating the cruelty and unreliability of the disability benefits assessment system: Smith had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate that left him barely able to walk and in pain, but regardless he was found “fit for work” and told to look for a job.

It took a year for Smith’s benefits to be reinstated. To get them, at the end of last year the 64-year-old was forced to obtain a pass to discharge himself from hospital; ravaged with pneumonia, he had to leave his bed to attend a tribunal and fight his case.

On Sunday night, news broke that Smith had died. I found myself crying when I heard of his death, which is probably strange considering I had never met him.

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source: The Guardian
published: 22 April 2019

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