Professor David Goodall, the 104-year-old Australian scientist who flew to Switzerland to end his life, left no doubt in watchers’ minds that he was keen to die, with his final words being a little complaint that the last legal steps he was required to take in order to commit suicide were taking too long.
The celebrated botanist and ecologist was accompanied by three of his grandchildren when he died at 8.30pm AEST on Thursday night in the Life Circle suicide clinic in Basel, Switzerland.
Dr Philip Nitschke, the long-time euthanasia campaigner who helped Goodall fast-track his way through Life Circle’s lengthy waiting list, said in a press statement that he was also with the scientist, who’d been a member of Nitschke’s right-to-die organisation Exit International for 20 years, when he passed away.
Goodall, who had no terminal illness but had said that he felt he had lived longer than he wished, tried to take his own life at least three times before seeking Exit International’s practical assistance, and lamented the fact that he had to leave Australia to die.
“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,” Goodall reportedly said prior to attending the clinic. “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 life.”
The great-grandfather and Order of Australia recipient, who wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words ‘ageing disgracefully’ at his last press conference, still lived alone in Perth and had worked at Perth’s Edith Cowan University until recently, although he officially retired in 1979.
He spent his last day in Basel University’s botanic gardens with his grandchildren and had a final meal of fish and chips and cheesecake, according to reports. He had spent time in France with a larger group of family members before travelling on to Switzerland to die.
Nitschke revealed that the 104-year-old chose the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to be played as he received his lethal injection. He fell asleep within minutes of turning on mechanism that allowed the drug to flow into his arm, and was dead shortly afterward.
But the euthanasia process, which requires the clinic’s customer to answer several questions and fill out forms to ensure they’re aware of the act they’re about to undertake, apparently wasn’t quick enough for Goodall. Nitschke reportedly told the AAP newswire that Goodall’s final words were, “This is taking a long time”.
Exit International released a statement from Goodall that said: “David has requested that his body be donated to medicine and, if not, that his ashes be sprinkled locally. He wishes to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony. David has no belief in the afterlife.”
If you feel depressed or 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.