Great grandmother died after refusing to turn on heating in big freeze

An “old school” great-grandmother died after developing hypothermia amid freezing weather because she was worried about the cost of turning her heating on. Barbara Bolton, 87, was taken to hospital after her family found her at home, unable to speak because her body temperature was so low, a coroner has heard. 

Her body temperature plummeted as low as 28C — nearly 10C lower than the normal body temperature, The Mirror reported.

Barbara, from Bury in Greater Manchester, suffered the ordeal despite her family encouraging her to turn her heating on, according to a senior coroner. 

Doctors have said her death was “probably avoidable” if only she had agreed to do as her family suggested.

Her son Mark Bolton said family members spoke to her daily and visited often. He described how she would put a gas fire on in her living room when she had visitors.

He said: “She would not put the heating on in the house. But she had been told by family members, particularly in recent times, not to worry about it.”

He told the coroner’s court his mother was “old school” and added: “It was my way or no-one’s way with my mum.”

Mr Bolton added that she was worried about her heating bills, despite any assurances the family made to cover costs.

Barbara was rushed to Fairfield General Hospital in Bury on December 11 but died 25 days later from pneumonia caused by hypothermia.

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Elsewhere in the hearing, senior coroner Joanne Kearsley told Mr Bolton: “What comes across clearly from both the hospital statements and from your own is how much, as a family, you cared and looked after your mum.

“I think it was evident from the hospital that whatever had happened at home wasn’t because the family weren’t encouraging her to put her heating on or telling her not to worry.

“It’s clear she was fixated on the worry of putting her heating on no matter what anyone was saying to her.

“For some reason, she had clearly become slightly entrenched in the view she couldn’t put the heating on for whatever reason. No matter what anyone was telling her, she wasn’t going to do anything differently.”

Dr Amir Ansari, a Consultant Physician said Barbar’s death was “probably avoidable if she agreed to keep her heating on”.

Mr Bolton added: “She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up.”

Barbara, who lived in her house in Bury for 40 years, had a gas fire in her living room as well as other heaters.

According to Mr Bolton, the family even brought heaters around but she would only put these on when the family visited.

On the opening of the inquest in January, assistant coroner for Manchester North, Julie Mitchell concluded: “Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner.”

The weekend when Barbara died, the temperature in Manchester had dropped as low as -4.2C, Met Office data shows.

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