Esther Rantzen 'disappointed' after report on assisted dying

Dame Esther Rantzen has told Sky News she is "disappointed" that a new report on assisted dying does not call for a debate in parliament.

The 83-year-old, who has stage four lung cancer, is campaigning for people who have physical illnesses, and a life expectancy of six months or less, to have the right to choose when they die.

In December last year, she revealed she had joined Dignitas.

The health and social care committee's report concluded that in countries where assisted suicide is legal, there hasn't been a drop in the quality of palliative care.

It also identified a "pressing need" for improved mental health support for terminally ill people and said there should be a "national strategy for death literacy and support following a terminal diagnosis".

However, Dame Esther wishes the committee had gone one step further.

She told Sky News: "I had hoped the report's conclusions would include asking parliament to have another debate on this subject because they haven't debated it since 2015.

"This is a life and death issue that matters a great deal to a lot of us."

Read more:
Five stories that bring the assisted dying debate home
Assisted dying laws robbed me of time with my father, says MP

Assisted dying is illegal in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - and anyone who travels abroad with a person who ends their life could be prosecuted when they return.

Dame Esther said individual cases highlighted in the report make for "painful" reading and labelled the current laws "a mess".

Explaining her current condition, the TV star said: "I don't go out, I stay at home and enjoy the company of those closest to me and the cat that has adopted us. That's how my life is at the moment.

"I do an awful lot of talking about death and I'd much rather be talking about life."

The interview came shortly after Dame Esther's daughter, Rebecca Wilcox, told Sky News of her own pain at her mother's predicament.

"I don't want her to go [to Dignitas], I want to ground any plane she's getting on and rip the drugs from her hand, but the alternative is appalling," she told Kay Burley on Sky News Breakfast. "The alternative of a painful death is unthinkable.

"It's horrific having to fight for this when all we should be doing is cherishing the best moments we have, rather than worrying about the worst moments to come."

Dame Esther "cannot help but think this is the last time she's going to see spring," her daughter added.

"What lies ahead is daunting, it's horrific. Mum is brave, she is outspoken, she is unstoppable… I expect she has a fear of pain and who doesn't?"

Like her mother, Ms Wilcox believes the UK is "lagging behind" when it comes to assisted dying laws.

She said: "We, as this brilliant country that is usually forward thinking, that is usually an early adopter of all the brilliant democratic procedures, are lagging so far behind.

"I feel like we are trapped in a prehistoric notion of end-of-life care being better than preventing pain.

"Surely a good death represents a good life. If you've had dignity in life, why wouldn't you have dignity in death?"

Dame Esther found fame presenting topical show That's Life! in the 1970s and is also known for her charitable work.

In 1986, she set up Childline and in 2013, she launched The Silver Line, which supports elderly people suffering from loneliness.