ATHENS – Following an outcry after the death of a quadriplegic woman who died an hour after her power was cut because she hadn’t paid a past due bill of 237 euros ($319), Greece’s Public Power Corporation (PPC) said it had launched an administrative inquiry into how it happened.
The PPC issued a statement saying that it did not know the woman from Hania, Crete was reliant on medical equipment to keep her alive before disconnecting her.
The company said that she was not one of some 650,000 people who have been placed on a list that protects them from disconnection, nor was she included in a list of the 5,874 PPC customers that are on life support.
The power firm said that it would investigate the incident after the woman’s son told SKAI TV that the family had applied for special status but had not received any acknowledgement from PPC.
Opposition parties SYRIZA and Independent Greeks called for a judicial investigation. SYRIZA MP Giorgos Stathakis, who is from Crete, said the woman’s death was “unacceptable and inhumane.”
Independent Greeks spokesman Terence Quick said:“How many more human tragedies do we need to see as a result of the memorandums and emergency taxes?”
The National Confederation of Disabled People said that PPC had to take at least part of the blame for the woman’s death. “It is already too late and the responsibility will stick to the culprits,” the organization said in a statement. “Let’s make sure there is not another victim.”
According to the state-run Athens News Agency, the woman living in Chania, had serious health problems the last 15 years but the country’s Public Power Corporation said it was unaware of her situation when her power was cut.
Her relatives have filed a lawsuit against those they consider responsible, Agence France Presse said, and an autopsy was scheduled to find the cause of death.
PPC expressed its condolences to the family, and told AFP that the bill was not issued in the woman’s name but did not say to whom it was addressed. “We were given no information about the health status of the woman,” PPC’s spokesman said.
“Her family hadn’t even applied for the special status accorded to people on life support,” he added. PPC said that rates were due to go up 11 percent for households on July 25th, but down for small-and-medium sized businesses.
The company has set different rates as well as different treatment for special groups of citizens, such as those who are in need of life support or the unemployed but people must apply for it.
Her family, however, said they submitted an application for special status conceded to people on life support.
Speaking on SKAI TV, the woman’s son alleged that although the paperwork had been submitted to the public utility company the family never received any kind of official response to its request.
Speaking to AFP, PPC said that the bill had not been issued in the woman’s name and that the family had not applied for special status.
Many Greek households have found it difficult, or impossible, to pay utility bills during a crushing economic crisis in which they have been buried with pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and public worker firings.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said they were necessary to save the country, despite the sacrifice many paid, although politicians and the rich have largely escaped austerity, including Parliament workers who were exempted because they threatened to strike and shut down the body.
According to PPC data, total debt from unpaid bills currently total some 1.3 billion euros, an amount growing at the rate of four million euros a day.
The government earlier had attached a doubled property tax bill to electric bills under the threat of powers cuts for non-payment, a scheme devised three years ago by then-Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is now Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister, with the PASOK Socialists he heads a member of the coalition government with Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives.
There was no statement from the government or the ruling parties made immediately.
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