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Cancer-stricken Diana Rigg wanted someone to help her die

Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter, Rachael Stirling, attend a champagne reception at the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the London Palladium in November  2014
Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter, Rachael Stirling, attend a champagne reception at the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the London Palladium in November 2014 - David M Benett/Getty Images

Dame Diana Rigg wanted to end her own life while suffering from terminal lung cancer, her daughter has revealed.

The actress and star of The Avengers and Game of Thrones explored available assisted dying options before passing away in 2020 aged 82.

Dame Diana asked her daughter, Rachael Stirling, to help her die, and made a series of recordings advocating for a change in the law to allow for assisted dying.

Ms Stirling said that her famous mother wanted to make her “curtain call” quickly, and told her to “push me over the edge” when in the grip of her increasingly debilitating and painful illness.

In tape recordings of Dame Diana in her final months, the actress expressed her advocacy for assisted dying legislation, saying that few people understand “how awful, how truly awful the details of this condition are, and the ignominy that is attached to it”.

She adds in recordings transcribed in The Observer: “Well, it’s high time they did. And it’s high time there was some movement in the law to give choice to people in my position.

“This means giving human beings true agency over their own bodies at the end of life. This means giving human beings political autonomy over their own death.”

‘I have cancer and I have been given six months to live’

Dame Diana, who lived with her daughter during her final months, said: “I have cancer and it is everywhere, and I have been given six months to live.

“Yet again we found ourselves in the bathroom this morning, my beloved daughter and I, half-laughing and half-crying, showering off together, and it was loving, and it was kind, but it shouldn’t happen.

“And if I could have beamed myself off this mortal coil at that moment, you bet I would’ve done it there and then.”

According to her daughter, the actress looked at the possibility of travelling to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end her own life, or having a doctor assist her, but these proved unfeasible.

This difficulty persuaded Dame Diana to take up the cause of reforming legislation that governs assisted dying as she had endorsed other campaigns.

She stated in tape recordings made by her family: “I’ve always spoken out. I spoke out when I was very young doing The Avengers and learned I was earning less than the cameraman. I received universal opprobrium. I was called ‘money grabbing’.

‘I stood up for what is right. I speak my mind’

“I spoke for peace in Vietnam, in Northern Ireland. I marched for peace in Iraq. I stood up for what is right. I speak my mind. If I see something is unfair, I’ll do my best to address it. I think this is unfair.”

Her daughter, who has taken up the cause that became so important for the actress in her final months, revealed the existence of the tapes in which the stage and screen star advocated for legislative change.

The revelation of her wishes comes after a failed effort to change the law in the UK amid a growing debate about assisted dying.

A private member’s bill introduced by Lady Meacher failed when it was not given time to be read by MPs in 2022, but in 2015 the Commons voted overwhelmingly against a bill that would have allowed doctors to help terminally ill people end their lives.

Legalised medically assisted dying has proved controversial in Canada, where the option was allegedly offered to Paralympian Christine Gauthier after she contacted authorities to ask for a disabled lift for her home.