Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, is a man whose legacy is assured. His stature as a paragon of justice and equality is unassailable. Like Nelson Mandela before him, Tutu has nothing left to prove. Yet last week, Tutu stunned many when he came out unequivocally in support of assisted death for terminally ill people. The Nobel Peace Laureate even went so far as to say he too is open to ending his time on earth through assisted suicide if and when he chooses to.
Writing in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Tutu said he would like to use his remaining years to give some semblance of dignity to those terminally ill patients who suffer unbearable pain and want the option of deciding when they shall die.
“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,” he adds.
As we also reported, Tutu was adamant that assisted suicide doesn’t contradict his long-held belief in the sanctity of life as inspired by church doctrine. As the Archbishop put it, the compassion at the centre of assisted suicide is an important value in Christian life;
“In refusing dying people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values,” writes Tutu.
As we hinted last week, Tutu’s statements were bound to touch off a debate about euthanasia in Africa. Now, it seems, the results of that debate are in. This Is Africa’s reading of how Africans have reacted to Tutu’s bold stance indicates that a substantial chunk of people on the continent feel the former Archbishop of Cape Town is on the right side of history.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: When my time comes, I want the option of an assisted death. I am inclined to agree.
— Ty Sweeting (@tysweeting) October 8, 2016
I, therefore, strongly agree with Archbishop (Tata) Desmond Pelo Tutu, hero of South Africa's liberation, about #euthanasia.
— Antivocative. (@geonal) October 8, 2016
Plenty more similar sentiment – which we can’t reproduce for reasons of time and space – was expressed online. Suffice it to say that Tutu’s position on assisted death has plenty of enthusiastic support from across Africa. In fact, most of those who disagree with Tutu seem to have one thing in common: they don’t reside in Africa.
I respect Tutu immensely but disagree
— Michael Bayer (@mbayer1248) October 7, 2016
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: When my time comes, I want the option of an assisted death https://t.co/0LJXf7nSRO I respectfully disagree.
— Richard Kauzlarich (@richkauz) October 7, 2016
That Tutu has been a able to to move the needle on support for euthanasia in Africa is testament to his ability to always lead the way in the great moral questions of our day through his own sterling example.