South Africa’s retired Anglican archbishop and anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu marked his 85th birthday yesterday. He also announced same yesterday that he wants the right to end his own life.
The anti-apartheid veteran said laws against helping people to die should be abolished. He claimed he has the right to be ‘allowed to pass on to the next phase in the manner of my choice’.
In an article published on Washington Post, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town said:
‘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.
Terminally ill people have control over their lives, so why should they be refused control over their deaths? Why are so many instead forced to endure terrible pain and suffering against their wishes. Regardless of what you might choose for yourself, why should you deny others the right to make this choice?
‘For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort.
‘I have prepared for my death and have made it clear that I do 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.
In refusing dying people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values.
‘I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth. The time to act is now.’
‘I myself am even closer to the departures hall than arrivals, so to speak, and my thoughts turn to how I would like to be treated when the time comes.’
Desmond Tutu’s plea comes at a time when assisted dying campaigners in Britain have run into a barrier because of the refusal of MPs to weaken the safeguards built into criminal law.
Anyone found guilty of helping someone kill themselves can face a 14-year jail sentence.
However, assisted suicide is lawful in Belgium, the Netherlands and Oregon in the US.
Photos of Tutu at his birthday tea party in Cape Town yesterday: