In his opinion piece on assisted death that was published in the Washington Post, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said that as he turned 85 on Friday, with his life “closer to its end than its beginning”, he wished to help give people dignity in dying.
“Just as I have argued firmly for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with the same compassion and fairness when it comes to their deaths.”
The Archbishop says he believes in the sanctity of life and knows that we will all die, as death is a part of life. Even when terminally ill, Tutu says people still have control over their lives and should also be given control over their deaths.
“Why are so many instead forced to endure terrible pain and suffering against their wishes?”
Tutu says he has prepared for his death and made it clear that he does not wish to be kept alive at all costs.
“I hope I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice.”
He further says knowing that the option of assisted death can provide “immeasurable comfort” for those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, as refusing them the right to die with dignity would mean “we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values”.
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Hello dear sisters and brothers.
As a Christian, I believe in the sanctity of life and that death is a part of life. I hope that when the time comes, I am treated with compassion and allowed to pass on to the next phase of life’s journey in the manner of my choice. My friend, Lord Carey, has passionately argued for an assisted dying law in the United Kingdom. His initiative has my blessing and support as do similar initiatives in my home country, South Africa, in the United States, New Zealand, and parts of the European Union and right across the world.
People who are terminally ill should have the option of dignified and compassionate assisted dying, alongside the wonderful palliative care that already exists. I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth with dignity and love. God bless you.
In South Africa, parliament has not yet decided to adopt a draft legislation on euthanasia, making the act illegal.
However, last year the country argued its first euthanasia case in court after the North Gauteng High Court allowed Cape Town advocate Robert Stransham-Ford to commit medically assisted suicide.
The ruling was only confined to Stransham-Ford’s specific case but had opened doors for those who would want to follow in his footsteps, though they would also have to approach the court for an order to allow them to commit assisted suicide.
Additional reporting by Ilse de Lange