Doncaster Game Of Thrones star Diana Rigg in assisted dying plea weeks before death

Doncaster born actress Dame Diana Rigg made a plea for assisted dying to be legalised, shortly before her death from cancer three years ago, her daughter has revealed.
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Dame Diana, best known for her roles in Game of Thrones, The Avengers and James Bond, made the heartfelt call for assisted dying to be legalised in a message recorded shortly before her death in 2020.

The statement, released by the late actress’s daughter, Rachael Stirling, who promised to share the message with the public, was published in The Observer on Saturday.

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It was accompanied by a column from Ms Stirling in which Dame Diana is remembered as saying “Rachie, it’s gone on too long – push me over the edge.”

Dame Diana Rigg died from cancer in 2020.Dame Diana Rigg died from cancer in 2020.
Dame Diana Rigg died from cancer in 2020.

In the cassette tape recording, Dame Diana says: “They don’t talk about how awful, how truly awful the details of this condition are, and the ignominy that is attached to it. Well, it’s high time they did. And it is high time there was some movement in the law to give choice to people in my position.

“This means giving human beings true agency over their own bodies at the end of life. This means giving human beings political autonomy over their own death.”

In the UK, it is technically a crime punishable by up to 14 years in prison to “aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another”.

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Physician-assisted dying is currently an offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland – where assisted-dying laws are progressing, along with the Isle of Man and Jersey – a person assisting in a suicide can currently be prosecuted under related crimes, such as murder.

It leads around 46 Britons a year to go to Switzerland’s Dignitas assisted dying clinic to end their lives, but legality and logistics of such a trip can prove difficult for both the ailing and their relatives.

In the recording, Dame Diana continued: “I have cancer, and it is everywhere, and I have been given six months to live. And I’m not frightened of describing the least attractive aspects of my condition: the fact of the matter is I have lost control of my bowels. This, to me, is quite the most dehumanising thing that can happen.

“Yet again we found ourselves in the bathroom this morning, my beloved daughter and I, half laughing and half crying, showering off together, and it was loving, and it was kind, but it shouldn’t happen. And if I could have beamed myself off this mortal coil at that moment, you bet I would’ve done it there and then.

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“Any palliative nurse will tell you, in the end, patients often starve themselves as a means to an end. The body becomes weaker, the organs shut down. It’s not that they want to die that way. It’s how they take control.”

“Nobody speaks about this,” she added of the “awful details” of her (and similar) conditions.

The film and television star – whose final major television role was that of Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones – was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2020 and died, aged 82, six months later.

“I’ve always spoken out,” she said of her decision to record her views. “I spoke out when I was very young, doing The Avengers, and learned I was earning less than the cameraman. I spoke for peace in Vietnam, in Northern Ireland. I marched for peace in Iraq.

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“I stood up for what is right. I speak my mind. I always have.

“If I see something is unfair, I’ll do my best to address it. I think this is unfair. I think it is unfair that I don’t have a choice. I think it is unfair that other people don’t have a choice.”

She was born in Doncaster in 1938 but spent her childhood growing up in India.