Australian scientist, 104, speaks publicly before his ‘planned death’

Basel: A 104-year-old Australian scientist, resentful that he was forced overseas to die, addressed the media in Switzerland on Wednesday, a day before he is due to end his life. David Goodall does not have a terminal illness but says his quality of life has deteriorated and that he wants to die.

The honorary research associate at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, who arrived in Switzerland on Monday, was barred from seeking help to end his life in Australia. Goodall was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to go to Switzerland. I had to get the opportunity of suicide which the Australian system does not permit. I feel very resentful.”

According to Swiss law meanwhile, anyone who is of sound mind and who has over a period of time voiced a consistent wish to end their life can request so-called assisted voluntary death, or AVD. Eternal Spirit, one of several foundations in Switzerland that assist people who want to end their lives, said on Wednesday that Goodall had undergone two medical visits by different doctors since arriving in the city.

 

‘Before his final exit appointment’

 

  • He spoke to the media in the northern Swiss city of Basel alongside the head of Exit International, the Australian right-to-die group that helped Goodall make the trip. “This conference is Professor Goodall’s first and last conference before his final Exit appointment,” the organisation said in a statement.

 

  • Goodall, who according to Exit International attempted but failed to commit suicide on his own earlier this year, secured a fast-track appointment with assisted dying foundation Eternal Spirit in Basel. Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalise the practice in 2017. But that legislation, which takes effect in June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.

‘Allow people to choose to die in dignity’

 

  • “Tonight the board of the foundation will study the documents and also judge the wish to die of David Goodall. So his wish to die is checked by two doctors and three people of the foundation’s board. If all five persons give their okay, Goodall will be able to open the infusion. That all five will accept his wish to die is quite likely, as David Goodall is in a very advanced age, suffering from several degenerative illnesses and most important of all, he is of sound mind. I do hope the law in all countries will change, so the fights of very brave people like David Goodall will be successful and no-one will have to travel to Switzerland any more for a peaceful self-determined death,” Eternal Spirit head Erika Preisig said.

 

  • In assisted dying, the person must be physically capable of carrying out the final deed on their own. Most Swiss foundations ask patients to drink sodium pentobarbital, an effective sedative that in strong enough doses causes the heart muscle to stop beating. Since the substance is alkaline and burns a bit when swallowed, Eternal Spirit has instead opted for intravenous infusions. A professional prepares the needle, but it is up to the patient to open the valve that allows the short-acting barbiturate to mix with a saline solution and begin flowing into their vein. Eternal Spirit is advocating for all countries to introduce systems like the Swiss one, allowing people to choose “to die in dignity”.