David William Goodall was an English-born Australian botanist and ecologist. On May 10th, the 104-year-old ended his life through voluntary euthanasia while surrounded by his family at the Life Circle clinic in Basel, Switzerland.
In his final hours, he enjoyed his favorite dinner—fish-and-chips and cheesecake—and passed away listening to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Assisted suicide—the act of ending your life with the aid of a doctor—is quite the controversial topic. Some, like those who are religious, believe that the decision to end one’s life, even if doing so in a non-violent manner, is a sin. Others, like the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, maintain that “control over one’s life [and] death [is] a fundamental civil right from which no one of sound mind should be excluded.”
Only certain countries—like Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Switzerland—allow assisted suicide on the books. That is why Goodall, a grandfather of 12, who collected $20,000 in donations to help fund his journey to Switzerland, had to travel so far from his homeland in order to receive the lethal dose that would end his life. He had previously advocated for the right to die by voluntary euthanasia in Australia, where the practice is illegal.
Speaking to CNN just two days before his death, the 104-year-old said that he had made his decision due to the fact that his failing health no longer afforded him the quality of life he once enjoyed.
“My life has been out in the field (working), but I can’t go out in the field now,” he said. “I would love to be able to walk into the bush again, and see what is all around me…I could still enjoy birdsong…But my lack of vision would seriously impair it…At my age, I get up in the morning. I eat breakfast. And then I just sit until lunchtime. Then I have a bit of lunch and just sit. What’s the use of that?”
Goodall, who resented having to across the world to end his life, said he hoped that the publicity surrounding his death would encourage other countries to legalize assisted suicide.
“What I would like is for other countries to follow Switzerland’s lead and make these facilities available to all clients, if they meet the requirements, and the requirements not just of age, but of mental capacity,” he said.
He added that he was “looking forward” to the procedure, and was not afraid of death, instead welcoming it when it comes.
“The process of dying can be rather unpleasant, but it need not be—and I hope it won’t be for me,” he said.
Giving advice to others on how to lead an extraordinary life like his, he encouraged people to “to take whatever opportunities arise—as long as those opportunities don’t involve harm to other people.”
At his final press conference on Wednesday, the scientist was in good spirits, wearing a shirt that read “Aging Disgracefully” while singing a few bars of “Ode to Joy.”
“At my age, or less than my age, one wants to be free to choose the death when the death is at an appropriate time,” he said.
For tips on how to live as long as the late Goodall, brush up on the 100 Easy Ways to Live to 100.
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