Cape Town, South Africa – Advocates say that choosing when we die is a fundamental right. Renown anti-apartheid activist, theologian and Cleric Desmond Tutu, 86, agrees with them.
Assisted suicide—defined as a physician providing a patient the means to take his or her own life, usually through medicine—is legal in only a few parts of the world, with more currently considering end-of-life legislation.
The person assisting the suicide facilitates death by making preparations and furnishing the needed equipment; but the person seeking death is the one who actually initiates the process. By taking a “hands-off” approach to the death itself, the facilitator seeks to avoid charges of murder.
Desmond Tutu said he would like the option of ending his life through assisted dying as he called on politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders to take action on the issue.
In an article published on his 85th birthday, and following several spells in hospital for recurring infections, the emeritus archbishop of Cape Town reiterated his support for assisted dying, first disclosed in the Guardian in 2014.
“With my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying,” he wrote in the Washington Post.
“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,” he added.
“Dying people should have the right to choose how and when they leave Mother Earth. I believe that, alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, their choices should include a dignified assisted death.”
Tutu pointed to laws in California and Canada that permit assisted dying for terminally ill people. But “there are still many thousands of dying people across the world who are denied their right to die with dignity”.
He claimed: “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.”