Baroness Ilora Finlay is a heroine of mine. She is a professor of palliative medicine. She promotes palliative care, opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide and argues eloquently against their legalisation. What some people didn't know as she argued against an assisted suicide bill some years ago was that her 84-year-old mother was lying in a hospice with advanced cancer, wanting to die. The old lady
didn't want to be dependent. She didn't want to be a burden. And if
assisted suicide were legal, it was clear, she would go for it. The
situation, Baroness Finlay said, was tearing her in two.
"The hospice chaplain, experienced enough to know we all have a story, asked Mum to tell him hers. It was in this telling that it dawned on Mum that her decrepit body
still held an active mind. Suddenly, she realised that if she wasn't
going to be allowed to kill herself, she had better make the most of
what time remained.
"She took more pain relief. Then, almost miraculously, the radiotherapy
began to work, her pain disappeared and she was able to leave the
hospice and go home.
"My mother would go on to live for another
four years and it's no exaggeration to say that those four years were
almost more precious than the 84 that had preceded them. Carers
came every day. Friends visited. She saw the birth of two great grandsons.
"Eventually illness came back. But I will never regret that our law protected her; preventing her from ending her life when she was vulnerable to despair.
four years we shared were the most precious gift. Without them, Mum
would have missed what she described as some of the richest times in her
life and we would have missed understanding just what an amazing person
"I'm so grateful for the fact she was 88 when she died and not 84. But best of all? So was she."
Baroness Finlay's Palliative Care Bill has its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday.
The UK is a global leader in the provision of palliative care services; the bill is designed, however, to rectify gaps in the present system, ensuring that all patients have access to palliative care around the clock, regardless of age, where they live, their level of education and their type of illness.