Article written

  • on 14.07.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

The right to die: Archbishop Tutu provides guidance on the last medical, legal and ethical frontier 0

South Africa – Daily Maverick correspondent Marianne Thamm comments on Archbishop Tutu’s decision to back the right of the terminally ill to choose to end their lives, an act of groundbreaking ethical and moral leadership.

It is poignant that as Nelson Mandela lay in a “permanent vegetative state” towards the end of his life in June last year, doctors advised his family to turn off his life support machines. It was the ever-progressive and forward-thinking Mandela who had understood the urgency of end-of-life decisions and who in 1998 mandated the Law Commission, chaired then by the late Chief Justice, Ismail Mahomed, to compile the report and draft legislation on the issue.

As Mandela lay on his deathbed, his anguished family clearly grappled with the traumatic decision about what to do. The “Certificate of Urgency”, recommending that life support be switched off, formed part of a legal document dated 26 June and lodged at the Eastern Cape High Court by family members seeking to have the remains of Mandela’s children returned to Qunu from Mvezo where they had been reinterred.

The court document read, “The Mandela family have been advised by the medical practitioners that his life support machine should be switched off. Rather than prolonging his suffering, the Mandela family is exploring this option as a very real probability”.

The timing of Tutu’s statement in support of assisted dying at the weekend is crucial. It comes, as The Observer noted, at the start of “a momentous week in the assisted dying debate [in the UK]. On Friday the House of Lords will witness one of the most significant moments in recent history when peers debate an assisted dying bill proposed by the former lord chancellor, Lord Falconer. A record number of peers – 110 so far – have registered to speak.”

Significantly, in his piece supporting assisted dying also for The Observer, Tutu pointed out that Friday 18 July – when the debate will take place – is Nelson Mandela’s birthday.

Tutu’s moral leadership on the issue will also contribute enormously to deep engagement with the final medical and legal frontier – the right of an individual to choose to die with dignity – a contentious issue internationally.

continue reading on Daily Maverick

By Marianne ThammDaily Maverick

Photo credit: Popular Resistance

subscribe to comments RSS

There are no comments for this post

Please, feel free to post your own comment

* these are required fields

P.IVA 11273390150
Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi