Advertisement

Dame Esther Rantzen: I would like champagne and caviar before Dignitas death

Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed she would like a final dinner of caviar and champagne before her death after she signed up for an assisted dying clinic.

Since being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2023, Dame Esther has campaigned for a parliamentary debate and a free vote to legalise assisted dying with “built-in precautions to protect the interests of the person”.

The 83-year-old founder of Childline joined the Swiss-assisted dying company, Dignitas, as a precautionary measure “if the law does not change in time”.

Obstruction Charge – Esther Rantzen – Horseferry Road Magistrates’ Court
Former journalist and broadcaster Rantzen said she would like to have a “fantastic dinner” before her death. (PA)

Speaking to LBC on Monday, Dame Esther outlined her preparations for her death should she go ahead with Dignitas.

She said: “I’d like to fly off to Zurich with my nearest and dearest. Have a fantastic dinner the night before. I’d love caviar, if possible, and the fact that it doesn’t always agree with me doesn’t matter, does it?

“I could even have champagne, which I’m deeply allergic to. Then the next day, go to this rather unappealing place where they do it.

“Listen to a favourite piece of music, say goodbye to everybody. Tell them to cheer up. I’m meeting my late husband, my departed dog and my mother at the pearly gates.

“Hold up my hand for an injection or open my mouth for a rather disgusting medication.

“I’ve got an amazing family and a 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.”

Esther Rantzen lung cancer diagnosis
Dame Esther Rantzen has outlined her preparations for her death should she go ahead with assisted dying (Esther Rantzen/PA)

Dame Esther, from Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, said the laws surrounding assisted dying are a “mess at the moment” as her family could be accused of murder if they travelled with her to Dignitas.

The former journalist and television presenter emphasised the importance of “individual choice” if her suffering from cancer becomes “too great”.

“The intentions are good… to protect people in the last days of their life, from being coerced into something by greedy relatives, or other crimes of that kind,” she said.

“As I have terminal cancer, it is a possibility that my life will become too painful, that my suffering will be too great.

“Even with the great palliative care skills that exist in this country and in my local hospice they won’t be able to help me and I want to die.

“What we need is for people to have individual choice, at that moment, which is literally life and death.

Lost in Space/Rantzen
Dame Esther Rantzen with her late husband Desmond Wilcox, who died in 2000 (Michael Stephens/PA)

Dame Esther, along with the Daily Express and the campaign group Dignity in Dying, launched a petition demanding a parliamentary vote on the subject, which amassed 120,000 signatures in about three weeks.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, told the PA news agency: “Dame Esther Rantzen speaks for countless families up and down the country, from all walks of life, who are demanding change.

“Under the current law, dying people are forced to choose between suffering, suicide or Switzerland. From countries that have already legalised like Australia and New Zealand, we know that there is a better, kinder, safer way. Assisted dying would only be available to terminally ill people with mental capacity, subject to assessment by two independent doctors.

“It is clear that it is time for a free and fair debate on assisted dying, but the law will not change unless the next Government commits to making Parliamentary time for this issue. Nowhere is the personal more political than in matters of life and death. The next election needs to count for dying Britons and party leaders should prioritise a debate on assisted dying.”

Dr Gordon Macdonald, chief executive officer of the campaign group Care Not Killing, who opposes assisted dying, told the PA: “Changing the law to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia in the UK would represent a dramatic change in how doctors and nurses treat and care for people.

“It would also place huge pressure, real or perceived on terminally ill and disabled people to end their lives exactly as we see in the handful of places that have legalised assisted suicide or euthanasia.

“It is disappointing at a time when we have seen widespread discrimination against the elderly and disabled people.

“Along with a crisis in the NHS, the care system and with hospices across the UK facing a £50 million shortfall that we continue to ignore, the more important debate is how to extend high-quality palliative care to all those who need it.”