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Archbishop Desmond Tutu at 85 says he ‘wants right to assisted death’

South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu has revealed that he wants to have the option of an assisted death.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-apartheid campaigner said that he did “not wish to be kept alive at all costs”, writing in the Washington Post newspaper on his 85th birthday.

Mr Tutu came out in favour of assisted dying in 2014, without specifying if he personally wanted to have the choice.

He was hospitalised last month for surgery to treat recurring infections.

“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,” Mr Tutu wrote.

“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.”

There is no specific legislation in South Africa governing assisted dying.

But in a landmark ruling in April 2015, a South African court granted a terminally ill man the right to die, prompting calls for a clarification of the laws in cases of assisted death.

Former archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrates a mass with Dean Michael Weeder to mark his 85th birthdayImage copyrightAFP
Image captionTutu became Cape Town’s first black archbishop in 1986. Pictured with Dean Michael Weeder during a mass to mark his 85th birthday

The Anglican Church – of which Mr Tutu is a member – is staunchly against assisted dying.

This is not the first time Mr Tutu has come out against the church, however.

He is an outspoken supporter of gay rights, and has openly criticised conservative Christian attitudes to homosexuality. In 2013, he said would “refuse to go to a homophobic heaven” in favour of “the other place”.

At the time, he added: “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

Earlier this year, he blessed his daughter Mpho’s marriage with her female partner, despite South African Anglican law on marriage stating that “holy matrimony is the lifelong and exclusive union between one man and one woman”.

The then-Archbishop of Cape Town also controversially supported an amendment to make abortion more readily available in South Africa in the mid-90s, despite some personal reservations.

Desmond Tutu:

Desmond Tutu, his wife Leah and daughter Mpho - 2015Image copyrightORYX MEDIA
Image captionDesmond Tutu and his wife have four children and seven grandchildren together
  • Born 1931
  • 1970s: Became prominent as apartheid critic
  • 1984: Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • 1986: First black Archbishop of Cape Town
  • 1995: Appointed head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Became a fierce critic of South Africa’s ANC
  • Supports assisted dying for the terminally ill

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