Friday, May 11, 2018

Ending It

"My life has been rather poor for the last year or so. And I'm very happy to end it."
"At my age, and even at rather less than my age, one wants to be free to choose the death and when the death is the appropriate time."
David Goodall, 104 years old, British-born Australian scientist

"He wishes to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony."
"David has no belief in the afterlife."
Exit International
Goodall at work in the 1950s.
Goodall at work in the 1950s.

He chose to die with the help of an intravenous drip of pentobarbital. This is a chemical used frequently as an anesthetic, but it can be deadly when excessive doses are used. Mr. Goodall was so anxious to get it over with, to be dispatched not into an afterlife, but into that dark nothingness of non-existence that he complained lightly that the process was taking longer than he expected it would, after all.

He took care to donate his 104-year-old corpse to medical science. Alternately, should no one see fit to take up his offer, he felt he would wish his ashes to be locally sprinkled, a soil amendment process, restoring to the earth what came of the earth, or in more familiar terms "ashes to ashes, dust to dust", irrespective of the fact that we are often informed that our atoms are comprised of stardust.

Even while he was hastening death, he took pains to inform reporters that it was his considered opinion that medically assisted suicide should be recognized as a boon and a bonus if not a right to those who wish to relinquish their lives to death. That it should not only be those who are terminally ill who can make that choice for themselves, but those like him, who have lived a long life and are prepared to leave it.

As he waited for the pentobarbital to do its work, he hummed and sang a bit of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, casually awaiting the end of existence. "This is taking an awfully long time", he observed before losing consciousness. It was in a town outside the city of Basel, Switzerland that he left life. Liestal was his destination of travel, taking advantage of Switzerland's assisted-suicide laws.

It had taken him, he said, twenty years to finally realize his thoughts of surrendering life. Only when his quality of life had deteriorated to the point of no return, however, over the course of his final year of life, did he become determined to end it all. No longer mobile, restrictions placed on him by doctors' orders, and a law in Australia where he lived prohibiting him from taking his own life were among his complaints, but ill he was not.

David Goodall in his Basel hotel room, two days before his death.
David Goodall in his Basel hotel room, two days before his death.

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