Dame Esther Rantzen’s Assisted Dying petition gains momentum

Dame Esther Rantzen has expressed profound gratitude to the 125,000 individuals who supported a petition advocating for the legalisation of assisted dying, following a commitment from the Government to not obstruct parliamentary efforts to change the law.

The renowned Childline founder, who openly shared her stage four lung cancer diagnosis and her desire to have control over her death, highlighted the significant impact of the petition. She urged continued advocacy to ensure the topic is included in political party manifestos, emphasising the importance of personal choice in end-of-life decisions.

Dame Esther, who has made preparations with a Swiss clinic for assisted dying, has openly discussed her wish for a dignified end, involving a celebratory meal. Her candidness has resonated with many, sparking widespread debate.

The “Give Us Our Last Rights” campaign by the Daily Express, aligning with Dignity in Dying, seeks to enable terminally ill, mentally sound individuals with a prognosis of six months or less, the right to seek medical assistance to end their lives. Launched in support of Dame Esther on January 8th, the petition quickly surpassed 100,000 signatures, reflecting strong public support.

The Ministry of Justice, in response, expressed empathy for those in Dame Esther’s situation and acknowledged the divided views on the subject. It stated that the decision to change the law on assisted suicide rests with Parliament, not government policy, but assured that the government would facilitate the enforcement of any new law as intended by Parliament.

Recent polls indicate a majority public support for legalising assisted dying with appropriate safeguards. Despite a previous bill being rejected in 2015, the momentum for change has been growing, bolstered by Dame Esther’s case and developments in jurisdictions like Jersey, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have both signalled openness to parliamentary debate on the matter, reflecting a broader governmental willingness to consider reform. This stance is underscored by recent promises to facilitate discussions in the next Parliament.

Campaigners and the public now await further parliamentary action, including a debate and the findings of an inquiry into assisted dying, signalling a potential shift towards legal reform and greater autonomy at the end of life.

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