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Former Childline and That’s Life! presenter Esther Rantzen joins Dignitas as she calls for free vote for MPs on assisted suicide

VETERAN broadcaster and New Forest resident Dame Esther Rantzen has confirmed she has joined the Swiss assisted suicide service Dignitas.

The former Childline and That’s Life! presenter revealed in May that her lung cancer diagnosis had progressed to stage four.

Dame Esther is now calling for MPs to be allowed to take a free vote on decriminalising assisted suicide in the UK, saying politicians should be allowed to vote according to their conscience rather than in line with their party’s whip.

Dame Esther Rantzen
Dame Esther Rantzen

She said it is now “important that the law catches up with what the country wants”.

Talking to the BBC’s Today podcast, Dame Esther said: “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?"

She continued: “I explained to (my family) 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.”

Dame Esther, who lives in the north of the Forest, confirmed she had been diagnosed with lung cancer in January.

She said at the time that she has been receiving “wonderful support” from her family, adding: “I have decided not to keep this secret any more because I find it difficult to skulk around various hospitals wearing an unconvincing disguise, and because I would rather you heard the facts from me.

“At the age of 82, this diagnosis has prompted me to look back over the years, and I want to express my profound thanks to everyone who has made my life so joyful, filled with fun, and with inspiration.

“First and foremost my family. My three children Miriam, Rebecca and Joshua have been the most wonderful support, company, and source of love and laughter and I am deeply grateful to them.

“My friends have been amazing and have created memories which sustain me and give me strength.

“My colleagues with whom I have worked, and continue to work with in broadcasting, journalism, the voluntary sector, and in many other organisations have been a constant pleasure, and have amazed me with their tolerance of my wild ideas and awful jokes.”

Dame Esther Rantzen with members of the Lymington Group of WIs in 2017 (photo: Steve West)
Dame Esther Rantzen with members of the Lymington Group of WIs in 2017 (photo: Steve West)

Dame Esther became a household name presenting popular BBC consumer affairs show That's Life! from 1973 to 1994.

In 1986, she founded the children's charity Childline, and in 2013 set up The Silver Line, a charity which helps older people overcome loneliness.

She was made a DBE in 2015 for her charity work.

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