Scientist ends his life at 104 after a farewell meal with family and listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

May 10, 2018

Australia’s oldest scientist, David Goodall, has ended his own life at a clinic in Switzerland, surrounded by family and while listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

David Goodall explains his decision to end his life.

The British-born 104-year-old was forced to travel on a one-way ticket from his home in Western Australia to Switzerland where liberal assisted suicide laws allowed him to end his life legally, in contrast to his home where it remains illegal.

In his final hours, Prof Goodall enjoyed his favourite dinner: fish and chips and cheesecake. And in his final minutes, the centenarian listened to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, best known for its last movement Ode to Joy, reportedly passing away shortly after the piece of music finished.

To end his own life, Goodall had turned a wheel that allowed a lethal infusion to flow into his bloodstream through a cannula on his arm. Assisted suicide, where patients take the final action to end their lives, is legal in Canada, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and parts of the United States.

Goodall had been campaigning for his home country Australia, where the state of Victorian is planning to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill from 2019, to follow suit. He was accompanied to the clinic of Swiss assisted-dying organisation Life Circle by Dr Philip Nitschke, the founder of the Australian right-to-die group Exit International.

“What I would like”, Goodall said, “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.”

Though Goodall was not terminally ill, he had seen his eyesight and mobility deteriorate considerably in recent years and said that his life stopped being enjoyable “five or 10 years ago”.

According to a statement by Exit International, of which Goodall had been a member for the last ten years, the scientist requested his body to be donated to medicine and, if not, that his ashes be sprinkled locally in Switzerland. He wished to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony, since he had “no belief in the afterlife”.

Goodall flew from Perth, where his daughter, son and grandchildren also live, to France last week to see relatives before arriving at the clinic in Liestal, near Basel. His case sparked controversy in Australia, with doctors in Perth at one point threatening to stop him flying to Switzerland.

He spent his final full day exploring Basel university’s botanic gardens with three of his grandchildren, who said they were proud of his bravery in the face of great public attention and were glad he would die on his own terms.

At his last press conference on Wednesday, Goodall was in good spirits and sang a few bars of Ode to Joy while wearing a jumper printed with the words “Ageing Disgracefully”.

He said he would have preferred to die in Australia and previously voiced his resentment at the country’s laws, which prevented him from doing so.

“Luckily my family who are in various parts of Europe and America have rallied round and come to see me, and I welcome the opportunity to see them, which I probably wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t pursued this Swiss option,” he told journalists.

He appeared bemused by public interest in his case. “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 said.

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Credit: The Guardian, www.theguardian.com

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