Ilora Gillian Finlay, née Downman, was born in Wales. In 1972, she married Andrew Yule Finlay, with whom she has two children.
She is a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine. She is a professor of palliative medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, and a consultant at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. In 2001, she was made a life peer as Baroness Finlay of Llandaff. She serves as a vice president of Marie Curie Cancer Care, Patron of The Trussell Trust's foodbank network in Wales, and the Motor Neuron Disease Association. She was a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and is a member of its inaugural Council. She has written many books, book chapters and scholarly papers in palliative care, from being Care of the Dying: A Clinical Handbook (1984) to the Oxford Textbook of Communication in Cancer (2011).
She has also written articles on palliative medicine, medical education, and ethics.