Australia’s oldest scientist Dr David Goodall says he attempted suicide three times before deciding to seek professional help to end his life. The euthanasia advocate arrived in Switzerland this week, where he has an appointment to end his life on his own terms on Thursday.
The 104-year-old made headlines last week after prominent euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke organised a crowd funding campaign to send Goodall on his final overseas flight with a business class ticket. Nitschke posted an update to Goodall’s GoFundMe page after he arrived in Basal on Monday, saying the scientist was “holding up remarkably well”.
Goodall has two more scheduled meetings with doctors before his final appointment at popular assisted-suicide centre, Life Circle, where he will die via lethal injection. Hundreds of people like Goodall travel Switzerland every year to take advantage of its end-of-life laws, with most using the services at Life Circle or Dignitas.
While he’s been an prominent campaigner for the right to die on one’s own terms, Goodall told Nine News on Wednesday that he doesn’t believe suicide drugs should be available to the general public. Rather, he says, they should be administered and managed by doctors.
He said that by the time people reach middle age they should be able to decide for themselves how they want to die.
“I wouldn’t suggest that it’s available to everyone, and just going and buying it off the shelf,” he told Nine. “I think there are plenty of people who might misuse that. But I would accept that it should be done by doctors’ prescription — but they should be free to prescribe.”
While the laws in Switzerland allow people to end their life when they see fit, the process is rigidly regulated and participants must follow the certain guidelines. In an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, Nitschke explained that once a person has decided to end their life in a suicide clinic, they must apply to one of the centres, which can be an extensive and lengthy process, depending on the individual situation.
“It’s initially a matter of getting all the documentation sorted,” he said. “That includes things like certified extracts of your wedding certificate, sometimes birth certificates, which can be quite a challenge to get.”
He said that in Goodall’s case, his daughter had worked tirelessly to pull the documents together, after the centenarian attempted suicide previously.
“You’ve got to make your case to get a place,” Nitschke went on. This is done by email correspondence, and he said that to be suffering from a terminal illness was not necessarily a requirement of the clinics. Ending your life with their assistance, though, will cost you around AU$10,000 (US$7,500) plus the air fare.
“In David’s case, because of his age they were very sympathetic,” he said. “If you were 80 instead of 104, you’d have more trouble.”
Once a person’s case has been approved the clinic will organise for the lethal drugs to be picked up and paid for by the patient’s family, who will then deliver them to the clinic. Nitschke provided Starts at 60 with more detailed information on the assisted suicide process, including the nature of drug administration and the events subsequent to drug administration, but reporting guidelines in Australia advise against publishing such material. Those wishing to know more can contact Exit International for details.
Despite his age, Goodall is not sick and says he never wanted to reach the age of 104, where he finds himself wheelchair-bound and unable to control his body as he used to. He’s not alone in his plight either. Many over-60s, including Starts at 60 readers, have aired their desire to end their life when they choose without having to suffer through painful illness and debilitating conditions.
If you feel depressed and need to talk to someone, Lifeline is available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14 or at lifeline.org.au. You can also call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.