Australian ecologist and botanist, David Goodall has traveled to Basel, Switzerland in hopes of dying. Assisted suicide, which is illegal in Australia, is the process in which someone is voluntarily euthanized by medical professionals. Goodall, who received numerous honors throughout his career and worked to edit Encyclopedias up until 2016, has encountered several health struggles over the past year that helped prompt his decision to die.
“I’m not happy,” Goodall said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in which he first publicly stated his plans. “I want to die. It’s not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented.”
Goodall advocated for the legalization of assisted suicide in Australia for more than twenty years. One of his colleagues on the subject, Carol O’Neil, accompanied Goodall to Switzerland. In addition to Goodall’s health, O’Neil cited social changes in Goodall’s life as being a contributing factor in his decision. Edith Cowan University tried to prevent Goodall from conducting research in the office he occupied for decades, moving him to a new location without his prior coworkers.
“He’s an independent man,” O’Neil said. “He doesn’t want people around him all the time, a stranger acting as a carer.”
Though assisted suicide is illegal nationally in the United States, six states have gone against the national ruling. Of the countries that allow assisted suicide, numerous ones only permit it if the person seeking death has a terminal illness. The idea of assisted suicide has prompted an international ethical debate. Those in favor argue it is a painless way to die for those with terminal illnesses, while those against counter that assisted suicide is undignified and will encourage everyone with a severe illness to choose to die instead of test their chances with treatments. While Goodall has expressed no reservations about his decision to die, he has voiced his disappointment with having to travel away from his home country to carry out his wish.
“I don’t want to go to Switzerland, though it’s a nice country,” 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.”
Close members of Goodall’s family will be present in Switzerland to say final farewells. Goodall will likely pass away within the next two weeks. Photo from Flickr.com by Laurel Russwurm.