Esther Rantzen's family surprised by unexpected Dignitas comments

The star's daughter heard her mum had joined the assisted dying clinic 'at the same time as everyone else'.

Watch Esther Rantzen's family surprised by unexpected Dignitas comments

What did you miss?

Dame Esther Rantzen's daughter has revealed that she and her family only discovered the star was considering assisted dying when she spoke about it on the radio, adding "she likes keeping us on our toes".

Rantzen, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year, told BBC Radio 4's The Today Podcast in December that she had joined Dignitas, and on Wednesday's Loose Women her daughter Rebecca Wilcox said that it was the first time she had heard of her mum's actions.

What, how, and why?

Esther Rantzen with her daughter Rebecca Wilcox. (Getty Images)
Esther Rantzen with her daughter Rebecca Wilcox. (Getty Images)

Dame Esther Rantzen shared the heartbreaking news last year that she had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and in December revealed that she had joined Dignitas - sparking a fresh debate on assisted dying.

Rantzen told BBC Radio 4's The Today Podcast: "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.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 21: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Dame Esther Rantzen attends a Service of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Dame Vera Lynn at Westminster Abbey on March 21, 2022 in London, England. Singer Dame Vera Lynn, dubbed a forces' sweetheart during World War II, died in June 2020 aged 103. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Dame Esther Rantzen has said she has joined Dignitas. (Getty Images)

"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?"

But in an appearance on Wednesday's Loose Women, her daughter Rebecca Wilcox shared the surprising news that she had only learned of her mum's plans when the podcast went out.

Asked by host Kaye Adams when she became aware of the plans Rantzen was considering, Wilcox said: "Probably the same time as you. It was a little surprising. She likes surprising us and she likes keeping us on our toes."

Esther Rantzen's daughter has told Loose Women that she was surprised by her mum's Dignitas comments.
Esther Rantzen's daughter has told Loose Women that she was surprised by her mum's Dignitas comments. (ITV screengrab)

Wilcox, who is very close to her mum and set to take over her charity Childline, added: "I've always known how she feels about death and dying, she's done a lot of work around it. We've always known that the last thing she wants is our memories of her to be replaced with a traumatic death.

"And a traumatic death involves a patient in pain. So if she's in pain, why would she want to live any longer, if she's not getting anything out of it?

Dame Esther Rantzen's daughter Rebecca Wilcox got emotional talking about her mum considering ​​assisted dying in Switzerland.
Rebecca Wilcox previously spoke to Good Morning Britain about her mum's decision. (ITV screengrab)

"She's always said, I love my life the way I am, I love who I am...She's this super-duper brain, she's so bright and so brilliant that the last thing she would want is to become something else in her last moments."

Wilcox said she was not surprised that her mum had begun campaigning on the issue of assisted dying, explaining: "Every single thing she's been involved with since we were kids, from breastfeeding to orthodontics, she's made into a campaign - but this one's a little bit more serious."

Loose Women also featured a pre-recorded call with Rantzen, where she said: "I don't know whether I'll live long enough to see this debated in Parliament, but if you do agree with me, please, please make your views known to your MP."

Acknowledging that there might be people who disagreed with her views for religious reasons or because they work in palliative care, she added: "All we ask for is the choice, we don't want to impose our views on you, but we do want the choice ourselves."

What else has been happening to Dame Esther Rantzen?

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28: Esther Rantzen attends Pride Of Britain Awards 2019 at The Grosvenor House Hotel on October 28, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Dame Esther Rantzen has stage four lung cancer. (WireImage)

Wilcox recently shared her emotional last Christmas with her mum as she wrote about how her family had celebrated in her column for The Mirror.

She wrote: "It’s not often that you know beforehand it will be the last time you will dish out turkey and pull crackers at the table with your mother, but that’s what this year has been for us."

TV presenter Wilcox added: "Hopefully until next year, when I would like to tell you we’ve had another Christmas miracle and Mum is coming to celebrate with us. She has a habit of making the impossible possible, so watch this space."

Loose Women airs on ITV at 12.30pm on weekdays.

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