Social insurance agency blamed for man’s suicide

A man who had been suffering from depression took his own life just two weeks after being told by the National Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) that he should seek full-time work, the man's relatives have told a welfare board inquiry.

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has undertaken an investigation into the case in accordance with Sweden’s Lex Maria laws, the informal name used to refer to regulations governing the reporting of injuries or incidents in the Swedish health care system.

The man had been suffering for an extended deep depression and had been cared for by the Örebro local health authority including consultations with psychiatrists and psychologists. During the time of his illness the man had been on sick pay, both part-time and full-time for periods.

According to relatives’ testimony to the board, the man received a telephone call from the Social Insurance Agency informing him that if he was unable to work full-time then his ability to work would be tested against the entire labour market, to see if there was any suitable alternative employment.

The board’s report details that the man felt anxious over the demands to seek work or training and his relatives have argued that the demands had a direct link to his death two weeks later.

Supporting journals submitted by the Swedish Association of Occupational Health (Föreningen Svensk Företagshälsovård – FSF) to the board conclude that the “the Social Insurance Agency’s actions had contributed to the increased stress and anxiety of the patient”.

However, according to the Social Insurance Agency’s documentation no discussion had been taken with the man referring to him being required to make himself available for employment outside of his field.

FSF had been unable to provide in full the care that the man had required and thus his case had been handed over to the local health authorities. The welfare board concluded in its report that there had been a lack of cooperation between the association and the Social Insurance Agency in the man’s case.

“There has to be clear routines for the cooperation based on the patient’s life situation and involving discussions with carers, the patient, close relatives and the Social Insurance Agency,” the welfare board concluded.

The board recognised however that there is a “difficult balance to be struck” between making an assessment of the patient’s psychological health while respecting and upholding the patient’s integrity and independence”.

The board furthermore recognised the difficulties of occupational healthcare providers to care for seriously ill patients and called for a clarification of the routines for when another care giver takes over a patient.

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