Last week, David Goodall, a 104 year old scientist from Australia, made headlines as he left Australia bound for Switzerland, where he plans to end his life. On Monday he arrived in Switzerland.
Unable to legally access the assistance he desires at home in the state of Western Australia, he has flown to the other side of the world – assisted suicide became possible in the Australian state of Victoria in 2017, however only residents of the state are eligible (see link) and the new law is not yet in force. Victoria will be the first Australian state to allow it.
Swiss law does not prevent assisted suicide and Switzerland allows foreigners to come to the country for the service.
Switzerland has three well-known assisted suicide organisations: Exit – founded in 1982, Dignitas – founded in 1998, and Life Circle – founded in 2011. They all involve doctors and are funded by members.
David Goodall is scheduled to meet doctors arranged by Eternal Spirit, a member of Life Circle, on Tuesday, who will assess his state of mind. On Thursday, he plans to take chemicals that will end his life.
In recently published statistics, Exit, says that around 10,000 people became members in 2017, bringing the total to more than 110,000.
In 2017, the organisation received around 3,500 requests, of which only 1,031 were approved. Doctors are involved in assessments and the process needs to ensure no laws are broken.
The average age was 78.1 and the main reasons behind the requests were terminal cancer (39%), multiple chronic diseases (25%), and chronic pain (7%).
In contrast to most seeking assisted suicide, David Goodall is not suffering from a terminal illness. His general health and mobility have deteriorated and he says he is unhappy and wants to die. He told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “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.”
Earlier official statistics show that 956 assisted suicides took place in Switzerland in 2015.
The associations are all different. Only permanent Swiss residents or Swiss citizens can become members of Exit – not to be confused with Exit international, an organisation present in Australia that assisted David Goodall. Dignitas and Life Circle accept members in Switzerland and from abroad.
Update: on 10 May 2018, David Goodall triggered the release of a lethal drug, which entered his body intravenously. He fell asleep within a few minutes and died a short time afterwards at around 12.30pm, according to Exit international. The scientist requested that his body be donated to medicine and, if not, that his ashes be sprinkled locally. He wished to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony as he had no belief in an afterlife, said the organisation.