LONDON – On the eve of his death, David Goodall, 104, Australian scientist, father, grandfather and lawyer, was asked if he had any moments of hesitation, even "fleeting".
"No, nothing at all," said Mr. Goodall in a strong voice. "I do not want to continue life, and I'm happy to have a chance to finish tomorrow."
Mr. Goodall spoke on Wednesday to a phalanx journalist and photographer in Basel, Switzerland. That the inquisitors had come from all over the world to hear what would be the last public words of the man once referred to as Australia's oldest working scientist, was proof that his campaign to end his life had fascinated audiences worldwide [1
A well-known botanist and ecologist, he was not mortally ill, but his health had deteriorated so badly that he had to stop most of his activities – like working at Edith Cowan University in Perth and performing in the theater – and he had to did not want to go on living. A fall in his home last month made his condition worse.
Keenly was aware that the press conference on Wednesday was a final opportunity to assist euthanasia and euthanasia in his own country, Mr. Goodall, who wore a blue sweater with the small logo "Aging Gracefully" on the front, resisted the flood of questions, squinting because of the flashing cameras and sometimes struggling to understand because of his hearing loss.
He was flanked by Philip Nitschke, the director of Exit International; and Moritz Gall, a representative of Lifecircle, an association that supports people in important life choices and guides them through the laws of Switzerland
. Goodall said, "I had a good life," he was not afraid of death, but acknowledged that he had previously tried to end his life in Australia. "It would be much more comfortable for me and for everyone else if I had been able to," he said, "but unfortunately it failed."
He was clear about why he had chosen "the Swiss option". Euthanasia and assisted dying are banned in Australia, although the Victoria State has enacted a law on euthanasia that will come into effect next year, but only applies to terminally ill patients whose life expectancy is no more than six months.
He said he hopes his life story would "increase the pressure" on Australia to change its laws. "You want to be free to choose death when death is the right time," Goodall said.
He was flown from his home in Perth to Basel last week with the help of Exit International's death center on Monday. Lifecircle, who works with the Eternal Spirit, a foundation that facilitates assisted voluntary death, helped him navigate the process. He had consultations with two doctors, including a psychiatrist, in Switzerland this week and was consulted by the Swiss police as a formality.
On Wednesday, when he realized that his case had ricocheted around the world and responded to numerous requests for interviews, all of his last days had been spent, Mr Goodall issued a final news conference, Mr Nitschke
Mr. Goodall thanked the Swiss and regretted that he had to leave home for Switzerland, the only country that offers assistance to foreigners if the helper does not benefit from the person's death. (According to Exit International, only 40 Australians made the journey because of the length of the flight and the cost of the trip.)
"I am very grateful for the hospitality of the Swiss Federation and the ability one has here to gracefully become one Mr. Goodall said, adding, "I am very sorry that Australia is behind Switzerland this turn."
He said that no one in his family had put pressure on him to change his mind. When he left his children and grandchildren behind, he said, "I have already said my piece to my family, I am sending them my love and I am glad that I had the opportunity to see most of them in the past week."
Asked if he wanted to do anything else, he said, "There are many things I would like to do, of course, but it's too late, and I'm content to undo them."
Influenced by what he would miss, he allowed, "I have long missed my travels to the Australian countryside, but I have not been able to do so for quite a while."
He was asked about his last meal. "I'm pretty limited in my culinary enjoyment these days," he replied. "I do not think I can enjoy my meals as I used to."
On Thursday he received a lethal dose of barbiturate intravenously. In order to comply with Swiss law prohibiting interference by third parties, he opened the valve to solve the problem himself, and fell asleep and died soon afterwards. Some of his grandchildren were with him in his last hours, Exit said.
He does not want a funeral or remembrance service, and he asked that his body should be sprayed to Exit International for medication or his ashes. Mr. Goodall does not believe in life after death, said the organization.
How would he like to be remembered? He said at the Wednesday press conference, "As an instrument to free the elderly from the need to pursue their lives independently."
At one point, he nodded as the people around him spoke. But first he was asked which tune he would choose for his last song, and he said that if he had to, he would choose the last moment of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Then he began to sing with verve and strength and obvious joy.