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Rantzen’s daughter urges Sunak to call for a vote on legalising assisted dying

The daughter of Dame Esther Rantzen has urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call for a vote on legalising assisted dying to help her terminally ill mother.

Rebecca Wilcox said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s commitment to make time for a vote if he entered Downing Street after the next election would be too late for “thousands of people who are suffering today”.

Childline founder and broadcaster Dame Esther, 83, who has stage four lung cancer, has put the subject under the spotlight in recent months after revealing she had joined the Dignitas assisted dying clinic in Switzerland.

She has been campaigning on the issue, including backing the launch of a petition demanding a parliamentary vote, which amassed tens of thousands of signatures over a few weeks.

In a recent phone call between Sir Keir and Dame Esther, filmed by ITV News, he told her a Labour government would allow MPs the time to debate and vote on a change in the law.

Asked whether he would like a vote within five years after the general election, the Labour leader told ITV: “Oh yes, definitely.

“I think Esther would agree with this. For people who are going through this or are likely to go through it in the next few months or years, this matters hugely and delay just prolongs the agony.”

Responding to his commitment, Ms Wilcox told TalkTV she was “really grateful” but added it would be “too late for mum and too late for thousands of people who are suffering today” if they were to wait for the next parliament.

She added: “Why not have a vote now? Why doesn’t Rishi Sunak go out on a high by giving something to everyone that we all want?

“Not making a choice on it, Rishi Sunak is still making a choice.”

She confirmed her mother’s Dignitas plans remained the same, saying: “You’d have to ask her and she’s quite private on the matter, which is unusual for her.

“Yes, her plans are still the same, she has paid up, she’s a member of Dignitas. She would go there.

“The query would be who accompanies her. I am deputy president of Childline and have signed a code of ethics and I think being arrested in Luton Airport would be a bit of a problem with that.

“But if Sir Keir could meet us off the plane, maybe that would be good.”

She said she had gone to to Parliament on Monday with non-profit organisation Dignity In Dying, and spoke with people who had lost loved ones in “the most painful way”.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Peter Nicholls/PA)

She added: “What my mum said, which I really wanted to say, is that making this law and protecting vulnerable people against a few criminals who may take advantage of it is like saying we shouldn’t choose to drive because there are a few bad drivers out there. A bad case makes a bad law and this is a bad law.

“Yes, we should safeguard with teeth, which is what Keir Starmer said, and we will because it’s 400 million people have this already.

“We can pick and choose the best parts, make it work for us, protect people… like my mother, like all the people I met on Monday who are so powerful and brilliant and inspiring and we are not helping them. We are letting them down.”

The issue was last up for parliamentary debate in 2015 when a Bill to legalise assisted dying in the UK was defeated.

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