Dame Esther Rantzen told BBC’s The Today Podcast that if she was PM for the day she would call for a free vote on assisted dying and that she is considering ‘buzzing off to Zurich’
Dame Esther Rantzen has said she wants to spare her family the agony of seeing her suffer a painful death.
The 83-year-old TV veteran told how she is considering ending her life at the Swiss clinic Dignitas as she battles stage four lung cancer. Dame Esther also called for a free vote on assisted dying to allow terminally ill people to pass away with dignity.
She said: “I have joined Dignitas. I 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 as they would want to go with me. The police might prosecute them. My family say it’s my choice. I explained to them that I don’t want their last memories of me to be painful.”
“If you watch someone you love having a bad death, that memory obliterates all the happy times.” Mum-of-three Dame Esther was asked on The Today Podcast, which is on BBC Sounds today, what she would do if she was PM. She replied: “I would get a free vote on assisted dying. It’s important the law catches up with what the country wants.”
The former That’s Life host said it was unexpected for her to make it to Christmas but it will be “so precious”. She added: “I’ve got to drop off my perch for some reason, and I’m 83, so I should be grateful and I am.”
Dame Esther said the thought of her being reunited with departed loved ones and friends cheers up her family. Assisted dying opponents believe it may lead to people ending their lives out of fear of becoming a burden on family.
Earlier this month, Dame Esther stepped back as the president of Childline, the counselling service for children and young people, after 37 years at the helm. She was given the role of Childline President when she stood down as a trustee in 2018, but had to quit her current role due to her ongoing health issues.
Earlier this year, Dame Esther announced she had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Her daughter Rebecca Wilcox will be deputising for her at the charity she founded back in 1986. Dame Esther and her daughter Rebecca said: “Because of Esther’s health issues, she has sadly had to reduce her work as President, but we are both thrilled that Childline and the NSPCC have suggested that her daughter Rebecca should now deputize for her.
“She feels deeply honoured to take on this role, she has grown up with Childline and enormously values the many achievements of the service, the dedicated staff and volunteers, all working to protect and support millions of children who have nowhere else to turn.
”Rebecca has two sons, is a journalist and broadcaster and is very in touch with the challenges facing young people today. Rebecca is about to start training as a volunteer counsellor and is greatly looking forward to meeting as many volunteers and staff and visiting as many bases as possible.”
Dame Esther founded the counselling service in 1986 after an episode of the BBC show, That’s Life! Viewers were asked if they would take part in a survey in an edition of the show after she suggested the BBC create a programme to detect children at risk before their lives were in danger. A helpline was soon created so that children could call for help. Childline merged with the NSPCC in 2006 and then in 2009 expanded to add an online service. Since then, nearly 6 million children have been supported by Childline over the phone and many more have accessed help from the service’s online resources.
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