Tragedy of MS sufferer who rode wheelchair for two hours to kill herself
AN MS sufferer travelled for two hours in an electric wheelchair to commit suicide in a canal - after her twin sister refused to buy her flight to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.
The day before Carol Hutchins died, she arrived home in floods of tears after the lever on her buggy had jammed leaving her unable to throw herself over a 3ft fence and into the water.
Determined to end her life, Mrs Hutchins returned to the canal the following day and got the mechanism working to lift the chair above the height of the fence.
The 53-year-old waited until a crew of workmen cleaning graffiti nearby went on a break before heaving her body, which was immobile from the chest down, into the water.
When the labourers returned to the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal in Reading, Berks., they found the empty wheelchair and then spotted Carol floating face-down in the water.
Police constable Victoria Blaszko (corr) leapt over the 3ft fence and dragged the middle-aged woman's body from the water as fellow officers, firefighters and paramedics rushed to the towpath.
Mrs Hutchins, who had been described as a vibrant woman with a "larger than life personality", was taken to hospital where she was declared dead shortly after arrival on October 22 last year.
A post mortem examination gave the cause of her death as drowning.
The Berkshire coroner heard that Mrs Hutchins was diagnosed with MS in 1989 and had taken part in marathons before MS ravaged her body and left her wheelchair bound.
Her sister, Ingrid Foan, said that in July 2010 her depressed sister was unable to do anything for herself and begged her to buy a one way plane ticket to Switzerland so she could end her life.
"She was terrified by what was happening to her," she tearfully told the hearing in Windsor, Berks.
She told how her sister had said that she had "lost everything and didn't want to live like this anymore," and had previously spoken of throwing herself into the canal.
Ingrid explained that after a 10-week hospital stay her sibling's condition had improved and she was able to do much more for herself.
Carol's devastated parents, Alec and Ursula, said they believed their daughter had planned to end her life before her condition worsened further and she could no longer control her destiny.
Mr Hutchins said: "We think she planned it while she was in hospital.
"She didn't involve anyone else. She knew exactly what MS was and what it was doing to her."
When asked whether they thought Carol had taken her own life, Mr Hutchins replied: "I'm in no doubt."
In recording his verdict coroner Peter Bedford said that Carol was suffering from a "horrible" disease at the time of her death.
"From the evidence given to me I am quite satisfied that Carol Hutchins died on October 22 last year at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and that she took her own life while suffering from multiple sclerosis and depression."
Speaking before the hearing Mr Hutchins called for assisted suicide to be legalised.
"Carol was a very courageous woman but at the end of the day she has demonstrated a need for euthanasia in this country," he said.
"People say life is precious but there comes a point when life is not precious and it becomes torture for those that are living.
"Carol had thought about going to Dignitas in Switzerland but it is very expensive and it puts other people in a difficult position.
"It showed tremendous courage for her to do what she did all alone and I believe that she had planned it after having enough of being a prisoner in her own home.
"She knew one more setback could leave her totally immobilised and she wouldn't be able to do anything for herself and she would just be washed, dressed and stuck in front of the television."