Bioethics News

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu backs assisted suicide in District of Columbia

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Overlooked in the ghastly spectacle of America’s I-can-dig-up-more-dirt-than-you-can election is a campaign in Washington DC to legalise assisted suicide. The issue goes to a vote on Monday in a full meeting of the District of Columbia Council.

Supporters of the measure have scored a public relations coup by enlisting Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a hero of the struggle against apartheid, Desmond Tutu, who is also an Anglican archbishop. Although Tutu reversed his opposition to aid-in-dying in 2014, he declined at the time to say whether he would take advantage of it himself.

Now, just ahead of the vote in the Council, he has published an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he urges voters to legalise assisted suicide, as Canada and California have already done. His essay has been reinforced with a YouTube video made by the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices.

C&C has recruited a number of prominent clerics, although their Christianity tends to be unconventional. One, for instance, is Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, who dissents from mainstream Christian beliefs like the existence of God. There seems to be significant level of support within the Anglican Church for assisted suicide. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has declared that it would be “profoundly Christian and moral”. Tutu says in his op-ed:

“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?

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.