South African icon and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape town Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrated his 85th birthday on Friday saying he would like to be allowed the option of dignified assisted death.
Archbishop Tutu said:
“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.”
“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”
Archbishop Tutu has spent time in hospital on several occasions since last year for a nagging infection.
A major reason for his hospitalization has been an infection resulting from the prostate cancer treatment he has been receiving for nearly 20 years.
“Now more than ever, I feel compelled to lend my voice to this cause.”
“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.”
Medically-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia is illegal in South Africa, but in recent years there have been growing calls for it to be legalized.
He paid a moving tribute to his beloved St George’s Cathedral before laying his head on the communion table and briefly wept.
“I have indicated that when the time comes I would like to rest here, permanently, with you.”
Tutu, who became the first black Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in 1986, had a cup of tea with worshippers after the Friday morning service.
President Jacob Zuma and the last apartheid leader F.W. de Klerk led tributes to Tutu.
In a statement Zuma said Tutu “has contributed immensely to the freedom and democratic dispensation” of South Africa.
Tutu who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 was ordained at the age of 30 and appointed archbishop in 1986, Tutu used his position to advocate for international sanctions against white-minority rule in South Africa, and later to lobby for rights globally.