Lord Avebury’s personal story – why he wants the option of assisted dying

eric aveburyLiberal Democrat peer Eric Avebury, a great friend of this site, has been talking to the Dignity in Dying website about why he feels so strongly that assisted dying should be an option, to help him avoid a “very terrible” death from his blood cancer.

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.

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.

It’s a very moving article which you can read in full here.

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  • Eric, as ever, makes a great deal of sense and I certainly hope that we are many years of his needing to make such a decision.

    It is surely a Liberal right that we ourselves should be free to decide how and when we die, and to do so with dignity.

    The lives of those who do not wish to chose such an option should be treated with upmost respect and defence, but why should I confirm to what other people’s views when the matter is so very personal? It should be mine decision and no one elses.

  • I hope that it is a long time in the future, but that he gets his wish to have some control over the manner of his own passing. I have been with both my parents at their deaths and was fortunate that the excellent palliative care available meant they did not suffer too much. That said, my Father in particular would have rather had the option of an assisted death.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Feb '15 - 1:37am

    I’d probably support assisted dying, but saying safeguards will be in place does not mean they will be sufficient. A consultant said to me once in a hospital “we don’t believe in life termination here” and they were focused purely on pain relief, which they did a very good job at. It is important not to lose the emphasis on pain relief.

    Best regards and wishes to Lord/Eric Avebury.

  • Geoff Hinchliffe 23rd Feb '15 - 9:13am

    As a supporter of assisted dying I welcome the clarity of this statement from Lord Avebury. To pre-empt any possible confusion on terminology, may I submit the following ?

    Such emotive topics need careful definition and differentiation, so may I suggest the use of the following , culled from the recent book “Assisted Dying – Who makes the final decision” , from Dignity in Dying :


    (i) “Assisted dying” refers to those with a terminal condition and a prognosis of six months or less, who wish to self-administer the life-ending medication in order to achieve a peaceful and dignified end.

    (ii) “Assisted suicide”, on the other hand, refers to people with unbearable suffering, possibly terminal, but without a death prognosis. Again the medication must be self-administered.

    (iii) “Voluntary euthanasia” is where the sufferer is physically unable to self-administer, and therefore would need another person to administer the medication.


    In view of the on-going debate in the House of Lords it is important to retain these distinctions .

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