Right to die: Labour leader in the House of Lords reveals that she 'would have considered a mercy killing' of her husband Stuart Hercock

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon will make an impassioned plea to change the law to allow assisted dying

Political Editor

Labour’s leader in the House of Lords will tomorrow make an impassioned plea for her fellow peers to change the law to allow assisted dying because of her own experience when her late husband became ill.

In an interview with The Independent, Baroness (Jan) Royall of Blaisdon revealed that she would have considered a mercy killing of her husband Stuart Hercock, who died from prostate cancer at 62 in 2010, if he had lived longer.

She said: “If he had got sicker and had wanted to die, then I know there would have been moments when I would have thought about helping him to die…..He would not have wanted me to do that…He would have been worried because of the law as it stands.”

Lady Royall, 58, said: “If this choice [assisted dying] had been there then I’m sure it is something he would have chosen.”

She recalled: “By the time he was diagnosed, it was too late; it had spread to his bones. We knew then that the illness was terminal. He lived for one year and 10 months. We had the most amazing time, a fabulous time, we travelled to the United States a few times.

“When Stuart died, he was not ready to die. Up to a couple of hours beforehand, we were still talking about the future….We did, of course, talk about dying. We wept together about dying.”

In fact, during a marriage of almost 30 years, they had already talked about death before Stuart  became ill. 

“We agreed that if people are terminally ill and have a very short time to live, they should not have to suffer. They should be able to exercise a choice to die,” she said.

That view was reinforced when an elderly neighbour and friend, Rosemary, got cancer and was living in a hospice. 

Video: MPs need to 'listen' to the people

After a birthday party where she said goodbye to her family and friends, she told Lady Royall: “I just want to die. I have had enough.”

She lived for another three weeks, and Lady Royall believes she should have had the option not to do so.

“The law as it stands is an unfair burden on those who are dying. You want calm, peace, dignity,” she said.

Lady Royall, speaking personally rather than on Labour’s behalf,  will be one of about 130 speakers queuing up to speak in a heated Lords debate today which could last for 10 hours.

On a free vote, the House will decide whether to give a second reading to the Assisted Dying Bill introduced by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Labour peer and former Lord Chancellor.

The Labour peer, who was political adviser to Neil Kinnock when he was party leader, said the House of Lords was “a good place” for the debate as it has a good record of discussing conscience issues like stem cell research. Diplomatically, she added that “the predominantly elderly House” had many members who had experienced the death of loved ones.

She sensed that, among both politicians and the public, opinion is moving in favour of assisted dying. Some 200 peers have entered the second chamber since the issue was last debated in 2009.

“I think the mood is changing,” said Lady Royall. “People’s minds are more open…. It is no longer seen as anti-Christian or anti-religion. It’s the right place and the right time. The courts have said that Parliament should debate this issue.”

She insisted there were  enough safeguards in the Bill to allay fears that old people will  decide to die so they would not be “a burden” on their families, or could be pressurised into taking their life by family members anxious to gain their inheritance.

Lady Royall dismissed as “a load of rubbish” claims by some doctors that they would have to form “death squads”, saying: “It would be self-administered.”

Whatever their views, she hopes peers will give the Bill a second reading tomorrow so that it can be discussed in detail in its committee stage. But she admitted that, even if the measure is passed by the Lords, such a sensitive issue is unlikely to be approved by MPs in the run-up to a general election.

“Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the House of Commons, as our elected representatives, to take this forward,” she said.

“I believe it is only a matter of time. But these things can take years.”

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn