After reversing his lifelong opposition to assisted suicide two years ago, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, revealed Thursday that he would like to have assisted suicide as an option if he needs it and urged Christian leaders to support the option for the terminally ill.
Writing on the eve of his 85th birthday in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Tutu explained that as he has grown closer to the time when he knows he will eventually die, he has become more convinced that people deserve just as much dignity in death as they expect in life.
"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. 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 wrote.
"Today, 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. Now more than ever, I feel compelled to lend my voice to this cause," he continued.
He argued that terminally ill people are being forced to endure terrible pain over their lives and said that is not something he would want for himself.
"I believe in the sanctity of life. I know that we will all die and that death is a part of life. 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?" he asked.
"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," he added.
Only a handful of states in the U.S., including Oregon and California, allow assisted suicide. Tutu raised argued that thousands of people around the world are being denied the right to "die with dignity" an act he says that betrays true human compassion.
"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," he said.
"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," he noted. "I welcome anyone who has the courage to say, as a Christian, that we should give dying people the right to leave this world with dignity."