Desmond Tutu: I want option of an assisted death

The 85-year-old says he prepared for his death and does not wish to be kept alive at all costs.

FILE: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - As he celebrates his 85th birthday, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has said that when the times comes, he wants the option of an assisted death.

In an opinion piece published in _ The Washington Post_, Tutu said that with his life closer to its end than its beginning, he wishes 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.

"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.

"I believe in the sanctity of life. I know that we will all die and that death is a part of life. Terminally ill people have control over their lives, so why should they be refused control over their deaths? Why are so many instead forced to endure terrible pain and suffering against their wishes?

"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.

"In refusing dying people the right to die with dignity, we fail to demonstrate the compassion that lies at the heart of Christian values. I pray that politicians, lawmakers and religious leaders have the courage to support the choices terminally ill citizens make in departing Mother Earth. The time to act is now."

WATCH: Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu discusses assisted death