Mark Wood

Mark WoodName: Mark Wood
Died: August 2013
Age at death: 44
Cause of death: Starvation
Location: Oxford, England, UK

Mark Wood, whose family describes him as "a sweet and gentle person", had been drawing since he was a young child. As an adult, he created paintings that address environmental damage to the planet. He was a photographer and a poet, and wrote songs.

Mark was just barely surviving. He was living on disability benefits because, in addition to Asperger syndrome, he was dealing with OCD and a range of phobias. Despite all of this, most of his support was withdrawn because a health-care company determined, after a half-hour interview, that Mark was able to work. Mark's doctor disagreed; he believed that Mark was not well enough to work, and that Mark was still "extremely fragile".

Mark's family was not notified that his benefits had been cut, and he had no advocate to help him navigate the benefits system. Unwilling to ask his family for help, Mark tried to survive on 40 pounds per week (equivalent to about $60 US; for comparison, a very cheap one-bedroom apartment costs about $100 per week.) He could not pay rent or utilities, and as his coping skills began to shut down, he began to withdraw, leaving mail unopened and government notices, utility bills, and demands for rent payment unanswered.

The health-care company was wrong: Mark Wood was unable to look for work. He was also unable to find enough help to get his benefits back or even to survive in the meantime. With severe social phobia making it difficult to interact with others and impossible to navigate a labyrinthine welfare system, food- and germ-related phobias making it impossible for Mark to scrounge for discarded food, and increasing stress shutting down his coping skills, Mark's life was endangered.

When Mark was found dead four months later, his body weight was so low that it was "incompatible with life", and the medical examiner determined that he had died of malnutrition.

Mark's family has arranged for a free exhibition of his work. It is entitled "The Spirit of Nature".

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