Film and book of Philip Gould's final days released

16 April 2012
Philip Gould, the New Labour strategist, chronicled the last few weeks of his life before succumbing to oesophageal cancer in November last year at the age of 61.

Lord Gould's writing has now been published in a book, 'When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone'. A film of the same name has also been released. The film, an intimate and moving portrait of Lord Gould's quest to find purpose and meaning in what he called 'The Death Zone', was shot by photographer and director Adrian Steirn, who spent two weeks filming their conservations. 

At one point Lord Gould, who was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2008 and given six months to live in summer 2011, says: "It is only when you are told you are going to die ... [that] life screams at you in its intensity."

He describes his final journey as "the most exciting and most extraordinary period" of his life and talks about having “more moments of happiness in the last five months than in the last few years".

"As long as I look death in the eye and as long as I accept that I can choose the death that I seek and the death that I choose I have some freedom. I have some power," he says.

"I have some possibility to shape for myself my own death and at that moment I have a kind of freedom."

Dying Matters and National Council for Palliative Care Chief Executive Eve Richardson met with Lord Gould shortly before his death. He told her that he no longer had a fear of dying. Eve said at the time: "Although loving life, he talked about no longer having a fear of dying as he had discussed what he wanted with his family and all those close to him and sorted out his affairs."

Lord Gould's book 'When I die: Lessons from the Dead Zone', is described as 'courageous, profoundly moving and inspiring'. He writes about how he realised something he had never heard articulated before: death need not be only negative or painful, it can be life-affirming and revelatory. When Philip could no longer write, his daughter, Georgia, took over, writing the final chapter of the book. 

Please share this film - and join in the conversation on Twitter, hashtag #whenidie. The more we talk about death, the more likely we are to approach it on our own terms - like Philip Gould.  

“When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone” by Philip Gould is published by Little Brown, RRP £14.99.

 Proceeds from the book will go to the National Oesophago-Gastric Cancer Fund and donations can be made at Donations to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity can be made at

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