Perth, Australia: Australia’s oldest scientist, 104-year-old Dr David Goodall, got on a plane in Perth late Wednesday surrounded by friends and family saying their final goodbye – on his way to Europe to end his life through voluntary euthanasia.
Dr David Goodall was wearing a top labelled “ageing disgracefully” as he left Australia for Europe.
David Goodall is not terminally ill but he has poor eyesight and declining mobility.
After repeated failed attempts at suicide over the past 12 months, the botanist, ecologist and emeritus professor made the decision to travel to Switzerland, where voluntary assisted dying is legal.
Next week he has an appointment with the Swiss assisted dying agency, Life Circle and Erika Preisig, an assisted dying expert, in Basle.
Dr Goodall will visit family in Bordeaux before making his final journey to the Swiss city of Basel, where an end of life clinic has approved his application to die through voluntary euthanasia.
He is accompanied by a representative from euthanasia advocacy group Exit International, which has raised almost $20,000 to cover his travel costs.
“I don’t want to go to Switzerland, though it’s a nice country,” Dr Goodall said. “But I have to do that in order to get the opportunity of suicide which the Australian system does not permit. I feel very resentful.”
Dr Goodall made international headlines in 2016 when, at the age of 102, Edith Cowan University where he served as an honorary research associate ordered he vacate his office because he was a safety risk to himself.
He challenged the decision and, after much public backlash, it was reversed.
In recent years the renowned academic’s physical condition has continued to deteriorate, along with his quality of life.
He said he appreciated the public’s interest in his plight and hoped it would spark more discussion about the issue of voluntary euthanasia.
“I would like them to understand it. I am 104 years old so I haven’t got much time left anyway. I might as well not have (my health) getting worse and worse, making me unhappy as it goes.”
Dr Goodall said he had the support of his family, with whom he’d had frank conversations about his decision.
“I’m saying farewell all the time. They realise how unsatisfactory my life here is, unsatisfactory in almost every respect. The sooner it comes to an end the better” he said.
On his 104th birthday last month, he used the occasion to declare he would spend the rest of his days campaigning for voluntary assisted dying to be legalized in Western Australia.
“My feeling is that an old person like myself should have full citizenship rights including the right of assisted suicide. Once one is past the stage of middle life, one has paid back to society the debts that have been paid out. One should be free to use the rest of his life as one chooses. If one chooses to kill oneself then that’s fair enough. I don’t think anyone else should interfere.” Dr Goodall said.
Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalise it last year.
But that legislation, which takes effect from June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.
Other states in Australia have debated euthanasia in the past, but the proposals have always been defeated, most recently in New South Wales state last year.
Dr Goodall has produced dozens of research papers and until recently continued to review and edit for different ecology journals.