Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Cape Town - Archbishop Desmond Tutu has broken his silence following the arrest of euthanasia advocate Sean Davison on a charge of murder earlier this week.

Davison is the founder of euthanasia advocacy group Dignity SA. 

His arrest comes just weeks after his organisation hosted a pro-euthanasia conference in Cape Town calling for the legalisation of the right by terminally ill patients to choose when to end their life. Medically-assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia is currently illegal in South Africa.

Nobel Peace laureate Tutu has been a vocal proponent of assisted death for a number of years, which he wrote about in an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on his 85th birthday in 2016.

"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... When my time comes, I want the option of an assisted death," Tutu wrote, sparking major controversy among religious groups and within medical and political circles.

On Friday, Tutu issued an official statement regarding Davison's arrest - which stems from a 2013 matter involving the death of 43-year-old Dr Anrich Burger who became a quadriplegic following a car accident.

The statement reads:

"Just as I have argued for compassion and fairness in life, I believe that terminally ill people should be treated with compassion and fairness when it comes to their death. 

"This should include affording people who have reached the end-stages of life the right to choose how and when to leave Mother Earth. 

"I believe in the sanctity of life, and that death is part of life. Alongside the wonderful palliative care that exists, the choices available to the terminally ill should include dignified assisted death.

"It is a choice that I believe lawmakers should engage, enable and appropriately regulate."

Weekend Argus

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