By John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) – A 104-year-old Australian scientist killed himself on Thursday in Switzerland by delivering a lethal injection of assisted suicide. He hoped to trigger milder euthanasia laws in his homeland.
Born in the UK David Goodall, who was not terminally ill, personally triggered a lethal dose of barbiturate and died at 1030 GMT at a clinic near Basel, the group of assisted suicides Exit International said.
Goodall, a member of the Australian Order for his work as a botanist, containing publications on dry bush landscapes, said he had unsuccessfully tried to kill himself in Australia after his skills, including his hearing, had deteriorated.
He came to Switzerland because of his laws, which have made assisted suicide legal since the 1940s, a legal curiosity that has made the country what some call the "death tourism" magnet.
"My life has been pretty bad for the last year or so, and I am very happy to finish it," Goodall told reporters on Thursday, shortly before his death. "The whole public that got it can only help, I think, euthanasia for the elderly that I want."
Physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia remains illegal in many countries, including Australia, though the state of Victoria was the first to hand over an euthanasia bill last November to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives. It comes into force in June 2019.
Several family members were at Goodall's until his death, preceded by formal papers that clearly frustrated Goodall, who said, "What are we waiting for?"
His last meal was Fish and Chips, and Exit International Director Philip Nitschke helped to organize Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which was to be played at his death, a spontaneous request from Goodall made by a reporter question at a Wednesday press conference was triggered.
"The infusion started to drip when he activated the process – he had to do it himself – after answering questions that said he knew who he was, where he was and what he was doing and he answered questions with great clarity, "said Nitschke after Goodall's death to Reuters.
"In fact, his last words were: That takes a terribly long time!" Said Nitschke.
Goodall, a 20-year-old member of Exit International, was born in London in 1914 and moved to Australia in 1948 where he was a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. He also worked in the UK and held academic positions at American universities, including at Utah State University in Logan.
"I did my best"
There, news of his death prompted debate about his legacy, with some former colleagues proposing his public suicide suit a personality who did not shy away from the limelight.
Others called Goodall a good scholar who was very popular.
"If I had been asked to give my own commentary on David Goodall, I would have said that he is sharp, brilliant and inventive," said Robert Russon, a 30-year-old professor at the Logan School in a letter to the Herald Journal newspaper.
Before his death, Goodall said there were things he would have changed if he had to do it again.
"I am by no means satisfied with what I have done," he said. "But I did my best."
(Reporting by John Miller in Zurich and Marina Depetris in Basel, editor: Richard Balmforth)