A member of a Swiss clinic set to help Australia’s oldest scientist end his life has said it is an “atrocity” that Australia had not allowed the 104-year-old to die at home.
David Goodall, who caused a stir two years ago when his university tried unsuccessfully to have him declared unfit to be on campus, does not have a terminal illness, but says his quality of life has deteriorated and that he wants to die.
“But because he is not terminally ill… he has to travel to Switzerland,” said Ruedi Habegger, a co-founder of Eternal Spirit, one of a range of foundations in Switzerland that assist people who want to end their lives.
“This is the atrocity of it all. This old man… should be able to die at home in his bed, like we can do here in Switzerland,” he told AFP in an interview.
Goodall is due to end his life at Eternal Spirit’s clinic near Basel on May 10.
Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries around the world, and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria became the first to legalise the practice last year.
But that legislation, which takes effect from June 2019, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.
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.
“If a completely healthy person comes and says, I am of sound mind and I have decided to die, the reason is none of your business, theoretically,” Habegger said.
He pointed out though that it was very uncommon for healthy people to ask to die, and said most doctors would balk at taking part in the process if they did.
The vast majority of the some 80 people who turn to Eternal Spirit each year to die are elderly, sick and in pain, he said.
The average age of people who receive AVD from the foundation is 76, with the youngest being 32 and the oldest – until now – 99.