Assisted dying petition inspired by Esther Rantzen signed by more than 10,000

A petition for a parliamentary vote on the issue of assisted dying has received more than 10,000 signatories.

The petition to Parliament was inspired by Dame Esther Rantzen, who has stage four lung cancer and has signed up for Swiss-based Dignitas, and calls for a free vote by MPs on the issue.

A free vote means MPs will not be under the whip system so they are not under pressure from their party to vote in a particular way.

Once a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the Government responds, and if 100,000 people sign, a debate in Parliament is considered.

Calling for a parliamentary debate and a vote, the petition says: “Terminally ill people who are mentally sound and near the end of their lives should not suffer unbearably against their will.

“We believe dying people in the UK should have the option of requesting medical assistance to end their lives with dignity, through a safe and compassionate system with strict eligibility criteria and safeguards.

Dame Esther Rantzen illness
Dame Esther Rantzen said she is considering the option of assisted dying if her lung cancer treatment does not improve her condition (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Without this, too many are taking matters into their own hands with tragic consequences.”

The Daily Express petition is in conjunction with campaigners Dignity In Dying and has been backed by Dame Esther.

Last month, Dame Esther, 83, called for the free vote, saying that she is considering assisted dying if her condition does not improve.

She told BBC’s The Today Podcast that it would be “painful” for her family to “watch someone you love having a bad death, that memory obliterates all the happy times and I don’t want that to happen”.

Dame Esther also expressed concern that her family could not travel with her to Dignitas, an assisted dying organisation, as the practice is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The maximum prison sentence for assisted dying is 14 years.

A report into assisted dying and assisted suicide in England and Wales is due to be published by the Health and Social Care Committee.

An Assisted Dying Bill, which would have allowed some terminally ill adults to ask for medical help to end their life, went before the Commons in 2015 and was rejected by MPs.

There was also a Bill proposed in the House of Lords during the 2021/2022 session which reached a second reading in the chamber.