Two years ago, the legendary Christian human rights leader and Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu authored an op-ed in The Guardian announcing the reversal of his lifelong opposition to assisted dying as an option for terminally ill adults to stop unbearable end-of-life suffering. But he was more ambiguous about whether he personally wanted the option: “I would say I wouldn’t mind,” he wrote at the time. In a new video of Archbishop Tutu recorded for Compassion & Choices and our UK counterpart, Dignity in Dying, he speaks more emphatically of his support. The two nonprofit organizations are the leading national advocates for medical aid in dying as an end-of-life option in the United Kingdom and United States, respectively.
“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,” says Archbishop Tutu, who recently turned 85 and has prostate cancer, in the video.
“People around the globe, of every religion, recognize Archbishop Tutu’s unquestionable moral authority. His very personal endorsement of medical aid in dying will comfort terminally ill adults suffering in agony worldwide,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, who was an emergency room and intensive care nurse for 25 years before becoming an attorney and co-authoring the 1994 Oregon Death With Dignity Act in the annex of the First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. “His endorsement is a call to authorize this end-of-life option internationally, as a matter of mercy and compassion.”
“Archbishop Tutu has fought admirably throughout his life for people to have their fundamental rights. His integrity and commitment to doing the right thing makes his support for assisted dying incredibly powerful. As he makes clear in his latest announcement, the right for terminally ill people to die with dignity in the manner and timing of their choosing should be given attention and respect” added Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying in the United Kingdom. “We urge political and religious leaders around the world to take heed of Archbishop Tutu’s words, namely to ensure that terminally ill people are shown compassion and their choices supported.”
“People who are terminally ill should have the option of dignified and compassionate assisted dying, alongside the wonderful palliative care that already exists,” concludes Archbishop Tutu in the video. “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.”
Watch Archbishop Tutu’s moving video here.