Lord Avebury: A very personal story

By Lord Eric Avebury

20 Feb

I am committed to campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent people to have the right to an assisted death. I have an incurable disease, a form of blood cancer called myelofibrosis, where the inside of the bone marrow turns to fibre and it no longer produces blood, so you suffocate. I have been told that it can be very terrible in the last stages.

Lord Eric Avebury

Lord Eric Avebury is a Liberal Democrat Peer who has served in Parliament for over fifty years. He has incurable blood cancer and speaks from personal experience on the assisted dying campaign.

I know that having the right to control my death if it gets unbearable will be a great comfort to me, especially in the final weeks of my life.

I have been in Parliament for over fifty years and have worked on many important issues. To have the opportunity to legalise assisted dying is one of the most crucial parts of my political career. Due to my health I am sometimes unable to participate in certain debates that go on late but the Assisted Dying Bill is an obvious exception!

I am pleased that it has so far been a great success; it was passed unanimously through Second Reading, and was constructively amended during the first day of Committee Stage. The House of Lords received much praise for the way it has so far conducted the debate, and my colleague Lord Falconer quite rightly won the Spectator’s 2014 Peer of the Year award.

I am confident that what has been achieved so far in the Lords will influence the Commons in the next Parliament.

It is a debate that the public have been engaging in for many years and finally Parliament has decided to catch up. I have had my own conversations with my family. My wife comes to all my consultations and we have discussed assisted dying. She knows that the ideal would be to have a peaceful death at home and for palliative care to deal with any serious pain, but if it doesn’t she would respect my decision to have an assisted death – assuming the Bill is passed by then. I am not keen on the idea of travelling to Switzerland and we haven’t discussed that option. My four children know my views and don’t object to them either.

I obviously have a personal stake in the Bill and the future of the assisted dying campaign. Currently I am not in the latter stages of my illness and I am very hopeful that this year will not be my last.

I am confident that, when this time comes for me, assisted dying for terminally ill people will be a legal right in the UK, and I will be able to plan the death that I want.


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  • Jerry Morris

    Sorry to hear about your illness.
    Iam with you all the way with this bill.
    I say this as a Octogenarian but Iam sure that many much younger folk will feel the same way.
    Terminal illness has no respect for age.JBM.

    • Martin Putt

      Well said Jerry as a young person myself I feel that it should be an individuals right if they have a terminal illness to decide when and how they die and that the current law needs to change.

  • marge scott

    This decision HAS TO BE OURS…

  • angela biggs

    After we are born, the one thing we ought to have the right to have control over, if nothing else, is the method of our demise. Obviously we can’t really choose the threat to our mortality, but we shouldn’t be made to suffer from it in a way which would be called cruelty if we caused it to happen to an animal.

  • Pam Hurst

    So very sorry to hear of your illness. It’s a truly frightening, frustrating situation to find oneself in and I fail to understand how a so called “caring” society can allow people to suffer painful, lingering deaths when the compassionate way is surely to let them choose to end their suffering if / when it becomes too much to bear. We euthanise animals when necessary to ease their pain when there is no hope of betterment… why not humans?

  • Stewart Fisher

    I’ m a retired medic and a member of Dignity in Dying. Palliative care services are often excellent, but not always, staffing problems exist and a crisis may develop over a weekend. It is important to discuss this possibility with carers/palliative care nurses so that in the event of deterioraton, you and your relatives can take appropriate action. Yes! Patient autonomy is exactly what this bill is about!

  • margaret smith

    I am so sorry that you have such a devastating disease, and wish you a death that anyone would wish for themselves in your circumstances. I am a supporter in assisted dying and wish you well.

  • cathy meredith

    my daughter 22 suffers from the fatal genetic disease Cystic Fibrosis. Both she and i firmly believe everyone should have the choice to control their own death. At 93 my mother endured a horrible death- drawn out and painful. What is the point when there is no chance of recovery?

  • P*ssedoffpatriot

    So sorry to hear from your own lips what you may face at the end of your life. I truly hope that, by the time your time comes, we as a country will have seen sense and introduced assisted dying for human beings as we already have in place for animals. Best wishes to you and your family. :-)