Assisted suicide: 104-year-old Australian was in high spirits before dying in Switzerland | News | DW | 10.05.2018
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Assisted suicide: 104-year-old Australian was in high spirits before dying in Switzerland

David Goodall expressed nothing but joy before his assisted suicide in Switzerland. The scientist said he wanted to be remembered for fighting for the right to die, but some Swiss fear a suicide tourism boom.

Australian David Goodall ended his life on Thursday at the age of 104. A spokesman for the right-to-die advocacy group Exit International said that Goodall had died at 12:30 pm in Liestal, a town outside the Swiss city of Basel, after receiving a lethal intravenous drug cocktail. He died while in the presence of several of his grandchildren.

"He was calm and relaxed," the spokesman said. "He wanted everything to go as quickly as possible."

Goodall, a prominent biologist, left his Australian home after being barred from seeking help to end his life and traveled to the Alpine nation, where assisted suicide is legal.

His highly publicized campaign for the right to end his own life has sparked debate about the ethics behind the practice and caused some Swiss to question whether they want their country to become a destination for those seeking assisted suicide.

Read more: Germany: Medical experts urge top court to revisit state's right to rule on suicide cases

Happy to end his life

Goodall did not have a terminal illness but claimed the quality of his life had diminished so much in recent years that he no longer wanted to continue living.

"I am happy to have the chance tomorrow to end it, and I appreciate the help of the medical profession here in making that possible," he told reporters in Basel. The 104-year-old also expressed his joy by spontaneously bursting into song in front of the room of journalists as he told them he was looking forward to finally being able to end his life.

However, Goodall said he would have preferred to end his life in Australia. "I greatly regret that Australia is behind Switzerland" when it comes to the right to take one's own life, he said.

Read more: Anti-apartheid activist Tutu wants choice of assisted death

When asked whether he had selected any music for his final moments, Goodall replied that he hadn't thought about it. He then said it would be "Ode to Joy," the choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and proceeded to sing the German lyrics, which were taken from a poem written by Friedrich Schiller.

David Goodall speaks into microphones at a press conference while seated between two men (picture alliance/AP Photo/Keystone/G. Kefalas)

Goodall spoke to reporters in Basel alongside those who helped him arrange his assisted suicide

Federal regulations in Australia prohibit assisted suicide, except in the state of Victoria, which legalized the practice last year. However, the right-to-die goes into effect in June 2019 and will only be granted to individuals of sound mind who are terminally ill with less than six months to live.

Goodall had vision, mobility and hearing problems common to old age. After a failed solo suicide attempt in Australia, Goodall was able to secure a fast-track assisted voluntary death (AVD) appointment in Switzerland with the help of Exit International, a foundation that provides aid to assisted-suicide seekers, and Life Circle, an assisted suicide advocacy group.

Read more: US takes different path from Europe on end-of-life laws

Goodall said that after his death, he "would quite like to be remembered as an instrument of freeing the elderly from the need to pursue their life irrespective." He hoped that his battle for his right-to-die will spur other countries to rethink laws barring the practice.

When asked whether he had any reservations about ending his life, Goodall replied, "No. None whatsoever."

David Goodall says goodbye to his grandson who kneels at the old man's feet (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Moore)

Goodall said goodbye to his grandson in Perth before leaving Australia for Europe

Ethical debate over assisted suicide

Assisted suicide is illegal in most nations.

Swiss law, however, allows anyone of sound mind who has consistently expressed a wish to die to request AVD.

But some medical ethicists oppose AVD for anyone who is not terminally ill.

Read more: Assisted suicide debate in Germany: Time to let euthanasia die

Additionally, some Swiss politicians worry that their country will become a dead-end stop for suicide tourism.

"We must be very careful with life," Basel City Councilwoman Annemarie Pfeifer said. "It's not good for my city if Basel has a reputation as a city of death."

According to Switzerland's federal statistics office, AVD numbers are rising fast, going from 297 nine years ago to 965 in 2015.

dm, cmb/rt (AP, AFP)

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