Australian scientist David Goodall lived a remarkable life, and at age 104, he chose to end it on his own terms. Goodall made the trip from Australia to Switzerland, where, with the assistance of medical professionals, he received a lethal dose of barbiturates in an assisted suicide procedure. He fell asleep and died peacefully shortly after. His life ended as he listened to Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy one final time.
Though David Goodall was not terminally ill, his health had deteriorated sharply in his advanced age. Goodall told reporters from BBC: “My life has been rather poor for the past year or so and I’m very happy to end it.” Goodall had been a longtime member of Exit International, an end-of-life advocacy group founded in 1997 by Dr. Philip Nitschke.
David Goodall had long campaigned for assisted suicide in Australia, telling CNN: “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.” Although assisted suicide remains illegal in most of the country, Victoria has passed a state law allowing it in certain cases. Western Australia, Goodall’s home state, is currently debating the topic.
Through media exposure, David Goodall hoped that his campaign to end his life would start a conversation about assisted suicide. Goodall told CNN: “I’m happy that this period beforehand has been used to interview me, and I’ve brought the ideas of euthanasia to light.” While it was not a terminal illness that brought Goodall to the decision to end his life, he told CNN that his quality of life had been deteriorating for a long time. “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 said.
Though he was born in England, David Goodall moved to Australia at the age of 34 after completing his education at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, where he earned both a bachelor of science degree and a Ph.D. in botany. Goodall was mostly known for his groundbreaking work in developing quantitative ecology. Goodall was the editor-in-chief of the book series Ecosystems of the World and was made a member of the Order of Australia for his pioneering work.
As an honorary research associate at Edith Cowan University in Perth, David Goodall continued to review, edit, and publish academic articles. He also assisted in supervising botany students. Goodall was a scientist mainly, but he also enjoyed the arts, specifically Shakespeare. Goodall acted on stage throughout his life, and at age 98, he became a member of Well Versed, a live poetry performance group in Perth.
In many of his final media appearances leading up to his assisted suicide, David Goodall would wear a shirt embroidered with the words ‘Ageing Disgracefully,’ showing that he had not lost his sense of humour. Goodall and his family raised roughly $20,000 on a GoFundMe page to fund Goodall’s trip to Switzerland. Before making his trip, Goodall told CNN that he did not fear death, and would “welcome it when it comes.” Dr. Nitschke of Exit International told BBC that Goodall’s final words were “This is taking an awfully long time!”
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