‘It’s not often you know it’s the last time you’ll eat turkey and pull crackers with your mother’: Dame Esther Rantzen’s daughter’s heartbreaking account of what could be her cancer-stricken mother’s final Christmas as she considers assisted suicide

Dame Esther Rantzen’s daughter has given a heart-breaking insight into what could be her last Christmas with her mother. 

The Childline founder, 83, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer earlier this year, revealed she has joined the assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland and will consider going there to end her life should her next scan show she is getting worse.

Her daughter Rebecca Wilcox told of how she ‘held on to each moment so tightly’ as they filled their Christmas Day with ‘happy memories.’ 

Writing in her column for The Mirror, the television presenter, 43, she explained: ‘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.

‘She thought she would be dead in spring, but a miraculous drug has meant that we have another Christmas with her, a wonder we couldn’t have imagined possible when she was diagnosed in January. I was determined to make the most of it.’ 

Dame Esther Rantzen’s daughter has given a heart-breaking insight into what could be her last Christmas with her mother (Dame Esther Rantzen’ pictured in 2022)

The Childline founder, 83, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer earlier this year, revealed she has joined the assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland and will consider going there

The Childline founder, 83, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer earlier this year, revealed she has joined the assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland and will consider going there

Rebecca continued: ‘I couldn’t relax. I was too aware every moment was a precious treasure. I felt I needed to hold on to each minute so tightly I was probably exhausting to be around.’ 

She explained how despite initially stressing about the ‘trickling away time’ she managed to finally ‘relax’ and find contentment in making memories.

She revealed how Dame Esther made wonderful memories with her grandchildren – teaching two how to play solitaire and being taught in return how to do a sudoku puzzle – before singing karaoke late into the day.

Rebecca added that the was ‘filled with so much love that our memories will last’ and said she was holding out hope for ‘another Christmas miracle’ by having her mother with them next year.

Rebecca previously said she fears she could be accused of murder if she helps her seriously ill mother travel to Dignitas.

However, Dame Esther admitted such a decision would put her family and friends in a difficult position as they could be prosecuted should they decide to join her. 

Her daughter, Rebecca Wilcox, told TalkTV: ‘It’s impossible, isn’t it, because I can’t even say to you, I would support my mum on her journey to Dignitas because if I said that, that’s legally murky. 

‘Obviously, in my head, I would have thought that I would never let her go alone to somewhere like that, but I’m a busy working mum. I can’t leave my children to pop off to jail while she’s buzzing off to Switzerland.

‘The fact is only three people a year get prosecuted. But the actual process of going through a court case at what is the worst time of my life so far. 

‘You know, mum is my person. I do not want to live without her. I will have to live without her and please, please don’t make it worse for me by accusing me of murdering her and making me go through what would be a terrifying legal process.’

Her daughter Rebecca Wilcox told of how she 'held on to each moment so tightly' as they filled their Christmas Day with 'happy memories'

Her daughter Rebecca Wilcox told of how she ‘held on to each moment so tightly’ as they filled their Christmas Day with ‘happy memories’ 

Dame Esther has called for a free vote on assisted dying as it’s ‘important that the law catches up with what the country wants’.

She said she will find out in a few weeks if a new medication she has been taking is ‘performing its miracle’ or if it has ‘given up’.

Asked about the current rules on assisted dying, Ms Wilcox said: ‘Why would it be a problem to set up regulation around this? 

We have regulation around everything. I’ve been trying to adopt a dog and the forms and licences and things that go through that is ridiculous. 

‘So death and birth are possibly the most important moments in your life. 

‘My death, I want it to be exactly how I want it to be and I think coming together, making a law, making structures, making regulation that respects my opinion on my body and my death for everybody is the only sane way.

‘It would stop the money-makers who want to make money from people’s death and frankly if you’re going to give someone a good death, make some money out of it as long as you’re helping them.

‘I have to say, Dignitas does not look like a very lovely place. I would much rather have diamonds and champagnes and a hot bathtub, and it doesn’t look like they supply that, and I think mum would too. We both model ourselves on Dame Joan Collins who is fabulous.’

Ms Wilcox had earlier told ITV’s Good Morning Britain how her mother, who has also worked as a broadcaster for several years, ‘doesn’t care what anyone else says’ as she prepares to join her family for what tragically could be her last Christmas. 

Rebecca previously said she fears she could be accused of murder if she helps her seriously ill mother travel to Dignitas

Rebecca previously said she fears she could be accused of murder if she helps her seriously ill mother travel to Dignitas 

‘It’s horrific and she always promised us she would live forever. She’s not usually one to break her promises so we’re a little upset about that. 

‘I would personally want to ground her plane if she was going to fly to Zurich but I know it’s her decision. I just don’t ever want her to go.’

Ms Wilcox also spoke of the heartbreak of watching her father, Desmond, endure a slow and painful death as he battled heart disease, adding: ‘That’s what mum wants to avoid.’

Dame Esther said that if ‘nothing’s working’ she might ‘buzz off to Zurich’ in Switzerland but realises this would put her family and friends in a difficult position as they could be prosecuted should they decide to join her. 

Keir Starmer says there are ‘grounds for changing the law’ on assisted dying

By David Wilcock, Deputy Political Editor for MailOnline

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has backed calls for a change in the law on assisted dying, potentially paving the way for a new vote.

The cause has been championed by Dame Esther Rantzen, who has called for politicians to grapple with the issue for the first time since 2015.

The Childline founder and broadcaster, 83, has stage four lung cancer and earlier this week said she has joined the assisted dying clinic Dignitas.

The Labour leader, who backed a change in the law the last time the issue was voted on in the Commons in 2015, acknowledged it would have to be addressed carefully.

‘On the question of assisted dying, there are obviously strong views both ways on this, which I respect,’ he told reporters during a visit to Estonia.

‘And that’s why traditionally, this has always been dealt with with a private member’s bill and a free vote and that seems appropriate to me.

‘I personally do think there are grounds for changing the law, we have to be careful, but it would have to be, I think, a free vote on an issue where there are such divided and strong views.’

Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

In Scotland, it is not a specific criminal offence but assisting the death of someone can leave a person open to murder or other charges.

Legislation is being put forward by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur, with the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill due to come before Holyrood next year.

The Health and Social Care Committee is due to publish its report into assisted dying and assisted suicide in England and Wales, having launched an inquiry in December 2022 to examine different perspectives in the debate.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the issue was always treated as a ‘matter of conscience’, with MPs given a free vote.

She declined to say whether she thought it was time for another vote in Parliament, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘As Health Secretary, I think actually, it’s right that I don’t express an opinion on this.’

But she added: ‘I think that if there was a will in Parliament that it will happen, if Members of Parliament, backbenchers, want it to happen.’

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