Desmond Tutu has said he would support assisted dying for the terminally ill.
Writing in The Observer he said he reveres “the sanctity of life but not at any cost”.
He also suggested that prolonging the life of Nelson Mandela had been an “affront” to his dignity.
His comments follow a U-turn by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who also said he would support assisted dying for the terminally ill.
The Church of England (CofE) has called for an inquiry into the issue.
In his column the 82-year-old retired Anglican Archbishop of South Africa said: “I think when you need machines to help you breathe, then you have to ask questions about the quality of life being experienced and about the way money is being spent.”
He also described as “disgraceful” how former South African leader Nelson Mandela was kept alive with intensive hospitalisation in the final stages of his life and was photographed with various visiting politicians.
He said: “You could see Madiba [Nelson Mandela] was not fully there. He did not speak. He was not connecting. My friend was no longer himself. It was an affront to Madiba’s dignity.
“Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn’t mind actually.”
He said: “I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost.”
His comments follow those of Lord Carey, who wrote in the Daily Mailthat he had dropped his opposition to the Assisted Dying Bill – due for debate in the House of Lords on Friday – “in the face of the reality of needless suffering”.
“The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering,” he wrote.