Desmond Tutu, South African Archbishop and anti-apartheid campaigner, announced on his 85th birthday – October 7th – that he would like to have an assisted death.
It was not the first time Tutu said he supported this cause. In 2014 he declared being for it and that he would consider it when his time came. But now, when death -according to himself- is closer than ever, he declared he believes terminally ill people should have the right to decide when and how they leave “Mother Earth.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a retired South African cleric, recognized for his work and beliefs in equality and justice. He was born in 1931 and became a harsh apartheid critic in 1970. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and became the first colored Archbishop of Cape Town in 1986. He was appointed as head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, fiercely criticized South Africa´s National Congress, and now, firmly supports death assistance.
Besides his Nobel Prize, he received other peace awards such like the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism (in 1986), the Pacem in Terris Award (in 1987), the Sydney Peace Prize (in 1999), the Gandhi Peace Prize (in 2007) and the Presidential Medal Freedom (in 2009).
The Church’s opinion, Tutu´s conditions and South African law
Euthanasia – or assisted death – is not legal in South Africa, and religion is a major factor in this. The Anglican Church is completely against euthanasia. They see it as something evil and do not want it to be approved. Desmond Tutu is part of the Church. He was the Archbishop of St. George´s Church, which creates a dispute or controversy among this topic.
Although, this is not the first time that Tutu is against some of his Church’s statements. He has been a big gay rights supporter, claiming he would not want to go to a homophobic heaven. He has criticized many conservative positions related to this issue. He blessed his daughter´s marriage with another woman. Also, in the mid-90s he supported an amendment to make abortion legal in his country.
We can see that we have a liberal cleric in South Africa, who sincerely cares about equality and justice for all. But the question is: what has made Desmond Tutu talk about assisted death? Well, he has been sick for 20 years now, diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has been and out of hospitals in the last years, maintaining himself in a delicate condition. After being through what he has been, we can guess that it was definitely not easy and that he may be tired and this made him sensible. He does not wish to be kept alive at all costs. He wants to step into the next phase of life, which we are sure it will receive him with open arms.
In 2015, the South African law made an exception with the terminally ill Robin Stransham, giving him the right to die with dignity, so it is possible for Desmond Tutu to be granted the same wish. This, of course, will alarm the Anglican Church, since more and more movements for this cause are developing in other countries, like Canada -where it is legal- and the United Kingdom -where Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury- is working on an assisted-dying law.
However the end of Tutu’s life will be, he will be remembered as a peacemaker, who will -like President Jacob Zuma said- keep on inspiring people and the nation to fight for human rights, justice and the wellbeing of all especially the poor.
Source: The Washington Post