Julie Burchill

Esther Rantzen is wrong about assisted suicide

What of those who might be bullied into euthanasia?

  • From Spectator Life
(Getty Images)

It can’t be any fun to have lung cancer as Dame Esther Rantzen does; I watched my father die from mesothelioma over the best part of a decade, and in the last couple of years this once tall, handsome, athletic man was more or less a tumour on legs. But I recall the zest with which he greeted each day, and the pleasure he took in seeing the seasons change. Once I said to him, in a fit of drunken sentiment, ‘Dad, if it ever gets too much… you do have a lot of pills, don’t you?’ He looked at me, shocked, then called to my mum while winking at me, ‘Get in ‘ere quick, Bette – our daughter wants to kill me!’ 

Rantzen has lived a life that’s full, to put it mildly, and she’s lived a useful one

With such a stoic example, I can’t help but disapprove of the dame putting the damper on the festive season by announcing that she has joined Dignitas and might ‘buzz off to Zurich’ if the new drugs don’t work: ‘If you watch someone you love having a bad death, that memory obliterates all the happy times… I’ve got to drop off my perch for some reason, and I’m 83 so I should be jolly grateful and indeed am.’  

Rantzen has lived a life that’s full, to put it mildly, and she’s lived a useful one – even if she did occasionally help herself to other people’s husbands with the zest of a recently released convict regarding the breakfast buffet at a five-star hotel. Her popular television programme That’s Life served as a formative, if thoroughly negative, experience in my youth – my innate antipathy to talking dogs and the ‘Order of the Week’ helping me decide very early on that the normal life was not for me – though her list of achievements is considerable.

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