Esther Rantzen's rallying cry on assisted dying: TV legend pens open letter to get public behind free vote for MPs

18 February 2024, 21:55 | Updated: 18 February 2024, 22:50

Dame Esther is campaigning for a free vote on assisted dying laws
Dame Esther is campaigning for a free vote on assisted dying laws. Picture: Alamy/Handout

By Will Taylor

Dame Esther Rantzen has issued a rallying cry for MPs to have a free vote on assisted dying.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Childline founder, 83, spoke to LBC after joining Dignitas in Switzerland as she battles stage four lung cancer.

And she has now issued a letter she hopes supporters will send to their MPs in the hope that a promise of a free vote on changing the law will appear in parties' manifestos ahead of the next general election.

She had not expected to even make it to Christmas and has begun campaigning for a person to end their life without those who help them being punished.

Dame Esther will join Nick Ferrari at Breakfast from 7am and you can listen on Global Player, the official LBC app.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, she said: "If I decide, as I have terminal cancer, it is a possibility that my life will become too painful, that my suffering will be too great...

"If my family are with me at the time, they can be accused of murdering me, bumping me off.

"If they go with me to Dignitas, where I have actually signed up just in case the law doesn't change just in time for me, they could also be accused of murder or conspiring to bump me off.

"It's a mess at the moment. What we need is people to have individual choice, at that moment, which is literally life and death."

Read Dame Esther's full template for the public to urge their MPs to back a free vote on assisted dying here.

Dame Esther wants MPs to have a free vote on changing assisted dying laws
Dame Esther wants MPs to have a free vote on changing assisted dying laws. Picture: Alamy

Currently, helping someone with assisted dying or going abroad so they can die overseas can carry a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

Previously, the broadcast legend said she believed she would have weeks or months to live after her diagnosis more than a year ago.

Read more: 'No plans to legalise assisted dying,' minister says, as Esther Rantzen's children say 'she shouldn't have to die alone'

Read more: Esther Rantzen reveals she has joined Dignitas and will consider assisted dying if health does not improve

She did not even think she would make it to her birthday in June.

The letter calls for "a full debate in the House of Commons on the subject of assisted dying" as well as the free vote.

"Many people who once opposed legalising assisted dying have changed their minds since the last Parliamentary debate on this issue in 2015, including MPs and members of the medical professions," a template to be sent to MPs says.

The full letter to MPs
The full letter to MPs. Picture: Handout

"There are now so many countries which have reformed their own laws, including Australia, the Netherlands and most recently Ecuador, that there are excellent examples of the way it works well.

"And every survey in this country shows a large majority of the public believe the current law should now be changed.

"Recently, a petition launched by the campaign backed by Dame Esther Rantzen and the organisation Dignity in Dying gained 120,000 signatures in just five weeks, which clearly demonstrates the importance with which many view this matter."

Dame Esther told Nick: What we need to do is make sure every party has it in their manifesto and the way to do that is for all your listeners to get in touch with their own MP."

She believed there are enough safeguards in place against family members trying to kill off elderly relatives for their own gain.

And she is mostly worried about patients who get to such a bad state they can effectively only breathe, instead of live life comfortably.

"I;'ve had a very lucky life, I've got an amazing family and group of friends and colleagues. So I'd like to say goodbye fairly gracefully, as much as I can muster, and then go. That's what I'd like," she said.