Prue Leith sends emotional message to Dame Esther Rantzen as she backs assisted dying | UK | News

January 18, 2024
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The former Great British Bake Off judge said any party promising to reform the law gets her vote – and thinks millions feel exactly the same.

Her intervention comes as a Daily Express petition demanding a Parliamentary debate and free vote on the issues approaches 70,000 signatures.

Prue, 83, who watched her brother David die of bone cancer, has become a passionate advocate of choice, one denied under current laws.

She said: “I’m glad the debate in this country is beginning to shift. I was pleased to see Dame Esther and Sir Keir Starmer come out in support of assisted dying.

“With a poll by Populus showing 82 per cent of the public in favour of having the option to end an intolerable life in a painless, dignified way, it could be a real vote winner. I’ll vote for the party whose manifesto promises to bring forward an assisted dying bill or guarantee parliamentary time for a private member’s one.”

Since our petition with charity Dignity in Dying was launched on January 8 some 62,000 people have called for a Parliamentary vote to reform current laws that outlaw assisted dying. MPs last voted on the issue in 2015 and refused to amend the Coroners and Justice Act.

Our crusade instantly reached 10,000 signatures meaning the Government must issue a response. Just 38,000 more and it must consider a full Commons debate.

David died in 2012 after receiving “wonderful care and treatment” but, Prue said, “the manner in which his life ended was truly shocking”. The legal tragedy preventing terminally ill people and their families taking control of their deaths is a scandal repeated up and down the country.

South African-born Prue, made a Dame in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours, is mother to Tory MP Danny Kruger. But she has expressed exasperation at the sluggish pace at which the subject has been noticed by lawmakers, given the strength of feeling across Britain.

She said: “What is Parliament waiting for? Doing nothing represents a gross abdication of responsibility.

“Regardless of what a future assisted dying law might look like, what MPs must accept is that the present state of affairs is monstrous. A choice between suffering against our wishes, flying abroad while seriously ill to be assisted to die in a foreign country, or ending our own lives at home with no medical knowledge or support is not a real choice.

“There is an inequity at the heart of this debate. If you don’t want an assisted death, you don’t need to have one – you get to have your choice. But I don’t get mine.”

As the law currently stands those enduring unimaginable suffering, but who seek release, are kept in pain.

The injustice has seen record numbers, including grandmother-of-five Dame Esther, 83, who has stage 4 lung cancer, sign up to Swiss suicide clinic Dignitas. Some 300 terminally ill people in the UK take their lives every year to end their suffering. Assisting a terminally ill person to end their life carries a 14-year jail sentence.

Widowed grandmother-of-five Dame Esther, 83, diagnosed in January last year, said: “Your response to the petition on assisted dying is moving and inspirational.

“The fact that so many thousands have added their signatures in such a short time proves this issue is incredibly important to a huge number of people who desperately need a change in the law to give them choice, confidence and peace of mind.

“Palliative care is wonderful but it cannot prevent some from dying in acute pain. We want to protect those we love, and ourselves, from unnecessary suffering. It’s our life, it should be our choice.”

Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, is backing our push saying: “I’ve happily signed and I encourage fellow politicians to step up to the plate. It is now time to change the law to help people have a better death. It is time to change the law to let people have more control over end of life decisions, up to and including how and where we die, who is there and the pain relief and treatment options we choose.

“We need all political parties to include a manifesto commitment to parliamentary time on this issue and a free vote for each member. And we need to have a proper grown up conversation in this country about this most difficult of issues.”

Also backing our campaign are Royle Family and Brookside actress Sue Johnston, 80, Olivier Award-winning Succession actress Dame Harriet Walter, 73, and British comedian and best-selling author Tony Hawks, 64, who lost his father to Parkinson’s.

* To sign our petition visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/653593



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