Esther Rantzen's daughter admits she didn't know terminally ill star had signed up to assisted dying clinic

The daughter of Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed that she had been completely unaware of her mother's decision to sign up to an assisted dying clinic until it had been announced in the media.

Dame Esther confirmed last month that she had turned to Dignitas, a private clinic in Switzerland, as a last resort amid her on-going battle with stage four lung cancer.

Appearing on ITV's Loose Women on Wednesday, Rebecca Wilcox, who recently took over her mother's role as president of children's charity Childline, gave an update on how the ailing broadcaster was doing.

Speaking to panelists Kaye Adams, Kelly Holmes, Sue Cleaver and Gloria Hunniford, she described her mother's choice had been "surprising".

"She likes surprising us and keeping us on our toes," she explained. "I mean I’ve always known about how she feels about death and dying, she’s done a lot of work around it. She’s done documentaries, she’s done newspaper articles and books so we’ve always known that the last thing she wants is for our memories of her to be replaced with a traumatic death.

Dame Esther Rantzen's daughter Rebecca Wilcox appeared on ITV's Loose Women on January 17 (ITV)
Dame Esther Rantzen's daughter Rebecca Wilcox appeared on ITV's Loose Women on January 17 (ITV)

"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 from life and obviously you can live with a certain amount of pain and some people are brilliantly stoical.”

Adding: “But she’s always said, ‘I love my life the way I am’. ‘I love who I am’... she doesn’t say that, she’s very modest but she is who she is. She is this super-dooper brain. I know I’m biassed but she’s so bright and so brilliant that the last thing she’d want is to become something else in her last moments.”

Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. While there is no specific offence of assisted suicide in Scotland, euthanasia is illegal and can be prosecuted as murder or manslaughter.

Dignitas is a not-for-profit organisation that provides physician-assisted dying to members who, in its words, have illnesses "that will lead inevitably to death, unendurable pain or an unendurable disability" and who have made a "reasoned request" with medical proof.

Reflecting on the former That's Life! presenter's health at present, Ms Wilcox said: “Fortunately, she is doing ok. We don’t know what is going to happen next, we only know what happened in the last scan and the last scan is always a bit out of date and then you go and meet the oncologist and he asks mum, ‘How are you doing?’ and she says, ‘I don’t know, that’s why I’m here’.”