Assisted suicide a 'dangerous conversation' - HPCA on Tutu

Cape Town - The Hospice Palliative Care Association is saddened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s support of assisted dying, the institution said on Monday.

“This is a dangerous conversation, especially in South Africa; and it worries me to consider how would we protect vulnerable people with regard to being ‘offered’ euthanasia,” CEO Dr Liz Gwyther said in a statement.

Gwyther said Tutu was wrong or misinformed about the life or death issue of euthanasia.

“The right to live and to die in dignity is one of the basic principles of palliative care. Archbishop Tutu is asking for good patient-centred care, in particular palliative care.”

Palliative care could control pain and enable people to live well until their natural death, she said.

‘Closer to the departures hall than arrivals’

During his birthday celebrations in Cape Town recently, Tutu said he was prepared for his death and did 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.

"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. For those suffering unbearably and coming to the end of their lives, merely knowing that an assisted death is open to them can provide immeasurable comfort,” Tutu said.

Gwyther said palliative care gave people the opportunity to discuss their fears and anxieties about dying.

“We recognise that people adapt to changing circumstances and change their minds about wanting hastened death. In discussing a person’s fears and anxieties, the palliative care practitioner can help to allay unrealistic fears and will work to control problems that may be realistic fears, such as pain.”

More effort needed to be put into ensuring that palliative care was available for all, she said.

WATCH this video on Tutu's birthday:

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