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104-year-old Renown Sci­en­tist Leaves Home, Begins Trip To End His Life, Says He Regrets Get­ting Old

David Goodall says he wants to end his life with dig­ni­ty
On Wednes­day, 104-year-old sci­en­tist David Goodall bid farewell to his home in Aus­tralia­to fly across the world to end his life.

The laud­ed ecol­o­gist and botanist is not suf­fer­ing from a seri­ous ill­ness but wish­es to bring for­ward his death. Key to his deci­sion, he says, has been his dimin­ish­ing inde­pen­dence.
“I great­ly regret hav­ing reached that age,” Dr Goodall said on his birth­day last month, in an inter­view with the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion.
“I’m not hap­py. I want to die. It’s not sad par­tic­u­lar­ly. What is sad is if one is pre­vent­ed.”
Assist­ed dying was legalised by one Aus­tralian state last year fol­low­ing a divi­sive debate, but eli­gi­bil­i­ty requires a per­son be ter­mi­nal­ly ill. It is ille­gal in oth­er states.
Dr Goodall says he will trav­el to a clin­ic in Switzer­land to vol­un­tar­i­ly end his life. How­ev­er, he says he resents hav­ing to leave Aus­tralia to do so.
Active life
The Lon­don-born aca­d­e­m­ic had lived on his own in a small flat in Perth, West­ern Aus­tralia, until only a few weeks ago.
He stepped back from full-time employ­ment in 1979, but remained heav­i­ly involved in his field of work.
Among his achieve­ments in recent years, Dr Goodall edit­ed a 30-vol­ume book series called Ecosys­tems of the World and was made a Mem­ber of the Order of Aus­tralia for his sci­en­tif­ic work.
Car­ol O’Neill is accom­pa­ny­ing Dr Goodall on his trip to Europe
In 2016, aged 102, he won a bat­tle to keep work­ing on cam­pus at Perth’s Edith Cow­an Uni­ver­si­ty, where he was an unpaid hon­orary research asso­ciate.
Accom­pa­ny­ing Dr Goodall on his jour­ney out of Aus­tralia on Wednes­day was his friend, Car­ol O’Neill, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from assist­ed dying advo­ca­cy group Exit Inter­na­tion­al.
Mrs O’Neill said the dis­pute in 2016 over Dr Goodall’s work­ing space had affect­ed him great­ly. The row began when the uni­ver­si­ty raised con­cerns about his safe­ty, includ­ing his abil­i­ty to com­mute.
Although Dr Goodall ulti­mate­ly pre­vailed, he was forced to work in a loca­tion clos­er to home. It came at a time when he was also forced to give up dri­ving and per­form­ing in the­atre, Mrs O’Neill said.
“It was just the begin­ning of the end,” she told the BBC.
“He didn’t get to see the same col­leagues and friends any more at the old office. He just didn’t have the same spir­it and he was pack­ing up all his books. It was the begin­ning of not being hap­py any more.”

Dr Goodall’s deci­sion to end his life was has­tened by a seri­ous fall in his apart­ment last month. He was not found for two days. Lat­er, doc­tors said he need­ed to engage 24-hour care or be moved into a nurs­ing home.
“He’s an inde­pen­dent man. He doesn’t want peo­ple around him all the time, a stranger act­ing as a car­er. He doesn’t want that,” Mrs O’Neill said.
“He wants to have intel­li­gent con­ver­sa­tion and still be able to do the same things like catch­ing the bus into town.”
Dr Goodall bid­ding farewell to his chil­dren
Divi­sive debate
Switzer­land has allowed assist­ed sui­cide since 1942. Oth­er coun­tries and juris­dic­tions have passed laws allow­ing peo­ple to vol­un­tar­i­ly end their life, but many state ter­mi­nal ill­ness as a con­di­tion of eli­gi­bil­i­ty.
The Aus­tralian Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion (AMA) remains strong­ly opposed to assist­ed dying, which it sees as an uneth­i­cal prac­tice of med­i­cine.
“Doc­tors are not trained to kill peo­ple. It is deep with­in our ethics, deep with­in our train­ing that that’s not appro­pri­ate,”pres­i­dent Dr Michael Gan­non said dur­ing last year’s leg­isla­tive debate in the state of Vic­to­ria.
“Now, not every doc­tor agrees with that,” he added. Indeed, a sur­vey of the AMA – Australia’s most influ­en­tial med­ical asso­ci­a­tion – found four in 10 mem­bers sup­port­ed right-to-die poli­cies.
Mrs O’Neill said Dr Goodall’s main desire was to die peace­ful­ly and with dig­ni­ty.
“He’s not depressed or mis­er­able, but there’s just not that lit­tle spark that was there a cou­ple of years ago,” she said.
An online peti­tion raised $A20,000 (£11,000; $15,000) for the sci­en­tist to fly in busi­ness class to Europe. He will vis­it fam­i­ly in France before head­ing to Switzer­land with his clos­est rel­a­tives.
“They [my fam­i­ly] realise how unsat­is­fac­to­ry my life here is, unsat­is­fac­to­ry in almost every respect,” Dr Goodall told the ABC. “The soon­er it comes to an end, the bet­ter.”

Mrs O’Neill said he had spent recent days revis­ing his final let­ters and hold­ing con­ver­sa­tions with his extend­ed fam­i­ly, includ­ing his many grand­chil­dren.
Dr Goodall’s sto­ry has gained atten­tion local­ly at a time when his home state, West­ern Aus­tralia, con­sid­ers whether to debate assist­ed dying leg­is­la­tion.
The state gov­ern­ment has pub­licly expressed sym­pa­thy for Dr Goodall, but said any pro­posed leg­is­la­tion would cov­er only ter­mi­nal­ly ill patients.
“My feel­ing is that an old per­son like myself should have full cit­i­zen­ship rights includ­ing the right of assist­ed sui­cide,” Dr Goodall said last month.
He told ABC he hoped the pub­lic would under­stand his deci­sion, say­ing: “If one choos­es to kill one­self then that’s fair enough. I don’t think any­one else should inter­fere.”
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