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

19 December 2023, 07:04 | Updated: 15 February 2024, 09:38

Esther Rantzen has revealed she joined Dignitas
Esther Rantzen has revealed she joined Dignitas. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed she is considering assisted dying if her health does not improve amid her battle with lung cancer.

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The Childline founder, 83, had not expected to make it to Christmas as the cancer advanced to stage four.

She has joined Dignitas, the Swiss group that helps with assisted dying - which is banned in England - as she waits to see if a "miracle" treatment works.

The That's Life! presenter told the BBC: "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?"

Read more: Dame Esther Rantzen steps down as Childline president after terminal lung cancer diagnosis

Helping someone with assisted dying or going with them so it can be done abroad carries a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Dame Esther said she would want a free vote in Parliament on the subject had she been prime minister for a day.

"Why should you not be given the choice about how you want to go and when you want to go?" she said.

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"I get all the arguments about... not wanting to be a burden and pressure being applied and all that. But... you can come to the wrong conclusion.

"If you just base everything on the worst case scenario, you've got to have a look at the advantages as well."

The broadcast legend said she believed she would have weeks or months to live after her diagnosis almost a year ago.

She did not even think she would make it to her birthday in June - and so she is looking forward to a "precious" Christmas.