The following article was first published online by the EDP on 31st July 2017 by Marc Betts
Jan Sutton, 46, from Norwich, had multiple sclerosis and took Norfolk County Council to a judicial review in June 2011 after the care she was receiving from social services was reduced, leaving her stuck in bed.
She called the situation at the time “utterly degrading and dehumanising”.
Ms Sutton took on the council after her care agency gave her 24 hours’ notice that it would no longer give her support to access her bathroom. The only way she would have been able to cope was to go into debt to pay for three more hours of care every day.
She won £9,500 in court and social services agreed to increase funding from 50 to 70 hours a week.
Earlier this year, with the loss of independence looming, she made the decision to go to Switzerland for an assisted death surrounded by her family on June 8.
Ms Sutton was born in Carlisle in 1970 to Win and Bryan Sutton, sister to Alison Sutton. From an early age her motivation was to help others, joining the British Red Cross aged six, remaining a member throughout her childhood.
In 1989 she took a gap year before starting university, working with nine others as an ambulance assistant in Israel, working for Magen Davide Adom, the Jewish equivalent of the Red Cross.
After returning in 1990 she went to Sussex University to study social psychology.
She found a home in Brighton and lived there until 2001 working with people with severe mental health problems and volunteering for those affected by HIV.
During this time in 1995 problems with her vision led to the discovery that she was suffering from a disease that would change her life. At the age of 25 she was diagnosed with MS.
Ms Sutton was devastated, but never defeated. She adapted her life where necessary and kept going as much as she could. By 2001 she moved to Norwich to pursue a postgraduate degree in counselling at UEA.
After graduating in 2004 she worked as a counsellor and briefly took a training position with the Norfolk County Council, retiring in 2004.
Securing her level of care in 2012 she dedicated herself to the broader cause, battling her condition and taking part in debates and campaigns.
The following tribute to Jan was written by Caroline Fairless-Price
I would like to pay tribute to Jan Sutton she was a delightful, gentle but vibrant lady.
Jan Sutton came to me wanting to organise a meeting in Norwich about the human rights act but later became ill and was unable to follow through with her London contacts. After discussions I had wanted to help.
I had said that I found the concept of rights a bit alien, as a retired veterinary surgeon I am very aware of the survival of the fittest in nature. I feel that we are relying on the goodwill of a civilised society to offer support to people when they are weaker, and allow them to get on with their lives. She was in agreement but we were both very aware that the support you would expect from a civilised society is not forthcoming. That sort of realisation is why the human rights act was made and it needs to be defended.
I feel that we should continue with her message both to honour Jan’s life and because it is essential in Britain today. We should resist attempts by the government to tinker with the human rights act. If it is abused as people claim tackle the problems in different ways.
Many people will not be aware that it could affect their lives one day. That people who love life and have a lot to offer are crushed when they have so much more to contribute.
People with complex care and support needs like myself have found it increasingly difficult to find appropriate support even basic support like eating, drinking, washing, going to the toilet. I have been told by health and social care that they cannot force agencies to provide care. But there is no state service in the community, to cover that eventuality. Even for those with assessed medical needs. People are to beg for help and left in perpetual crisis just for the basics of life.
Remember everyone gets old or can get ill. It could be you one day. We need to defend our civilised society and recover our health and social care services so that we can support one another at times of need. The human rights act exposes the current situation as clearly unacceptable.
We do not have to accept the removal of our decent society, we all need it and everyone must know by now we need it urgently.
I haven’t studied the law so I’m no authority, but Mark Harrison at Equal Lives has been forced to examine the issue many times on behalf of members of equal lives.
People need to know.
Caroline Fairless – Price