Dame Esther Rantzen says she has joined Dignitas as she calls for assisted dying law change | Ents & Arts News

December 19, 2023
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Broadcaster Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed she is considering ending her own life if treatment for her lung cancer does not improve her condition.

Dame Esther, known for starting the charity Childline and long-running BBC magazine programme That’s Life!, revealed in May her cancer had progressed to stage four.

She has now revealed she has joined Swiss organisation Dignitas, which enables people to have an assisted suicide.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today podcast, she called for a free vote (where MPs are not whipped to vote along party lines) on assisted dying, saying it is “important that the law catches up with what the country wants”.

She told the podcast her next scan will determine “whether the miracle drug is performing its miracle or whether it’s given up”, referring to her treatment.

She added: “I have joined Dignitas. I have in my brain thought, well, if the next scan says nothing’s working I might buzz off to Zurich – but it puts my family and friends in a difficult position because they would want to go with me.

“And that means that the police might prosecute them. So we’ve got to do something. At the moment, it’s not really working, is it?”

Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with those convicted facing up to 14 years in prison.

The Health and Social Care Committee will publish a report into assisted dying in England and Wales soon, after launching an inquiry in December 2022.

Dame Esther added her family said it is her decision to make, telling the BBC: “I explained to them that actually I don’t want their last memories of me to be painful because if you watch someone you love having a bad death, that memory obliterates all the happy times and I don’t want that to happen.

“I don’t want to be that sort of victim in their lives.”

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What is assisted dying?

Read more: MP says current law on assisted dying robbed him of time with his father

She had been unsure she would make it to her last birthday in June, explaining it had been “very unexpected” she would make it to the Christmas period.

The broadcaster added: “Anything can happen, I live in a forest, a tree can fall on me.

“I’ve got to drop off my perch for some reason, and I’m 83, damn it, so I should be jolly grateful and indeed am.”

Dame Esther found fame presenting That’s Life! between 1973 and 1984 – a topical programme which focused on investigations and entertainment, that often had audiences of more than 15 million.

She also set up Childline in 1986, which offers support to children and young people in the UK, which later merged with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in 2006.

In 2013, she set up The Silver Line in 2013 – a charity which supports elderly people suffering loneliness.

She was made a dame in 2015 for services to children and older people.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK



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