For those suffering unbearably, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort, writes Desmond Tutu.
Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to have spent my time working for dignity for the living. I have campaigned passionately for people in my country and the world over to have their God-given rights.
Now, as I turn 85 Friday, with my life closer to its end than its beginning, I wish to help give people dignity in dying. 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.
There have been promising developments as of late in California and Canada, where the law now allows assisted dying for terminally ill people, but there are still many thousands of dying people across the world who are denied their right to die with dignity. Two years ago, I announced the reversal of my lifelong opposition to assisted dying in an op-ed in the Guardian. But I was more ambiguous about whether I personally wanted the option, writing: “I would say I wouldn't mind.” 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.