Freude, Schöner Götterfunken, or one man’s way of dying

 in the Washington Post, of May 10, 2018, as well as from the Review and website of  Exit International, of May 8.
At 104 years David Goodall  chose himself when and where he would die.  He said that he  had traveled from Australia to Switzerland for the purpose, because euthanasia wasn’t legal in his Australian homeland.

When there and asked, Did he want to eat anything in particular for his last meal? He replied he didn’t know. Did he want any special song played at his bedside? He wasn’t sure — but if he had to choose one, it would be the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Ode to Joy. And as he said that in response to his questioner, he burst spontaneously into song, singing in German:


Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

I can understand that. And as my family and friends know well whenever I listen to the Ode to Joy, especially in the  Banco Sabadell’s Flashmob performance,  I find myself also bursting into the Götterfunken (divine spark) song, at least when no-one is watching or listening.

Anyway, and in accordance with Goodall’s own plan for ending his life around midday on Thursday, an IV was placed into his arm allowing him to turn a wheel to allow the lethal drugs to flow into his bloodstream. Then, in the presence of his family Goodall fell asleep, and  within a few minutes, while Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” was sounding in German, and just as the joyful music concluded, he died.

The organization, Exit International, in charge of his assisted suicide, said  that Goodall had requested that his body be donated to medicine and, if not, that his ashes be sprinkled locally, and also that he wanted to have no funeral, no remembrance service or ceremony of any kind, that he had no belief in an afterlife.

Goodall was a long time botanist and ecologist and was thought to be Australia’s oldest living scientist. On his 104th birthday last month he said simply that he had lived too long.

“I greatly regret having reached my age and I would much prefer now to be 20 or 30 years younger.”  When asked whether he had had a good 104th birthday, he replied: “No, I’m not happy. I want to die. … It’s not sad, particularly. What is sad is when one is prevented from dying. My feeling is that an old person like myself should have full citizenship rights, including the right of assisted suicide.”

Because assisted suicide is banned in Australia, Goodall had to board a plane  and travel more than 8,000 miles to Basel, a Swiss city near the French and German borders. Switzerland, like many other countries, has not passed legislation legalizing assisted suicide; but under some circumstances, its laws do not forbid it.

“I didn’t want particularly to go to Switzerland, though it’s a nice country,” Goodall said, “but I had to do that in order to do to myself what  Australia does not permit. I would have preferred to be able to die in my own country, for  Australia is my home. I’m sorry to have to go such a long way away in order to end my life. At my age, and even younger, one wants to be free to choose when is the most appropriate time to die.”

Goodall said he had a good life, but in recent years, his health had declined. He told the ABC that several months ago, he fell down in his apartment in Perth and, for two days, he lay on the floor until his housekeeper found him. “I called out,” he said, “but no one could hear me.” He told reporters that there were things he would miss, such as his “journeys into the Australian countryside.” And there were still many things he would have like to do but that it was too late. “I am content to leave them undone,” he said.

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Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité

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