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Australian scientist gives last public thoughts before Swiss euthanasia ends his life

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Zurich: A 104-year-old Australian scientist who travelled to Switzerland to end his life has said he is not without regrets but is “happy” to have the chance to end his life.

Ecologist Proffesor David Goodall, who is not terminally ill, told a news conference in Switzerland that he was ready for the end. He said he chose Switzerland as that country’s liberal assisted suicide laws let him commit suicide legally, in contrast to Australia where it remains outlawed.

Ecologist David Goodall sings Beethoven’s 9th symphony on his last day.

Professor Goodall, a member of the Order of Australia, responded to reporters’ questions in the Swiss city of Basel while accompanied by members of euthanasia groups including Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International.

He understood that his death, planned for Thursday, would be by lethal injection, though he did not know what time it would take place nor many details about the procedure. Some family members would be present, he said.

“One should be free to choose the death, when death is at an appropriate time,” said Professor Goodall, who wore a jumper cardigan bearing the words “Aging Disgracefully”.

David Goodall, 104, is not terminally ill but says his body is failing him.

Photo: AP

“My abilities have been in decline over the past year or two, my eyesight over the past six years. I no longer want to continue this life. I’m happy to have the chance tomorrow to end it.”

Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940s, if performed by someone with no direct interest in the death. The Netherlands legalised euthanasia in 2002 for patients considered to be suffering unbearable pain with no available cure.

A Swiss doctor had to determine if Professor Goodall was of sound mind before he could undergo assisted suicide.

In lots of countries, though, physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia is illegal.

Professor Goodall farewells his grandson at Perth Airport before leaving Australia.

Photo: AAP

Australia has forbidden such practices, although Victoria, last November, became the first state to pass a euthanasia bill to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives. It takes effect in June of 2019.

Professor Goodall was born in London in 1914 and moved to Australia in 1948. An expert in arid shrublands, he was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne, worked in Britain and held academic posts at USA universities.

While visibly straining to hear questions, Professor Goodall answered them clearly and in detail after they were repeated using a microphone.

He said he felt a “sense of pressure”, given media attention on his end-of-life journey to Switzerland.

“I don’t feel that anyone else’s choice is involved,” he said. “It’s my own choice to end my life tomorrow.”

Professor Goodall said he had not given much thought to a last meal, as he said his culinary choices had grown quite limited.

He had not contemplated music to accompany his passing, but thought Beethoven’s 9th Symphony may be good, he said, before singing a few notes.

Professor Goodall said he was not without regrets: “There are many things I would like to do, but it’s too late. I’m content to leave them undone.”

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Henry Sapiecha