BASEL, Switzerland — More than 8,600 miles from home, David Goodall, 104, an Australian scientist, took his final journey Thursday by his own hand, at a time — now — and place — an assisted-suicide clinic — of his own choosing.
With his grandson Daniel and a longtime nurse, Carol O'Neil, at his side, the renowned botanist and ecologist from Perth, Australia, entered the Lifecircle assisted-suicide center in Switzerland and began the final stage of the process by receiving a fatal dose of barbiturates.
The lethal cocktail is normally ingested, but since Goodall couldn't swallow, the substance was injected intravenously.
He died shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time (6:30 a.m. ET) while listening to Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th symphony, according to the clinic.
Under Swiss law, Goodall was required to complete the final process himself, without any assistance from a third party, by opening a valve that releases the fatal liquid. The process was filmed to confirm that the final act was his alone.
In addition, by law, no one can financially benefit from an assisted suicide, and patients must be mentally capable of making the decision and not be coerced by someone else. A Swiss doctor had to question Goodall to make sure he is of sound mind and his wish to die is well thought out.
Under the procedure, a patient falls asleep within a few minutes, and death comes usually within a half hour, according to Lifecircle.
Goodall said his last public farewell Wednesday at a news conference designed to publicize his decision and to help others who might also seek that path.
"I hope something positive will come out of my story and that other countries will adopt a more liberal view of assisted suicide," he said. "I'd like to be remembered as an instrument for freeing the elderly to choose their own death."
Asked if he had any doubts, even fleeting, he said, "None whatsoever."
"My abilities and eyesight are declining, and I no longer want to live this way," he said.
Goodall, one of about 200 foreigners who come to die in Switzerland each year, isn’t terminally ill but said after his birthday last month that he was motivated to take the final step because his quality of life has deteriorated, notably his lack of mobility.
"I am happy to have this opportunity, which I call the Swiss option," he said after arriving this week. "I just wish Australia offered me this possibility. But other countries lag behind Switzerland."
Assisted suicide is legal in a handful of countries, including Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands, but applies only to their own residents who have incurable diseases.
In the USA, assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Vermont, Washington, California, Colorado, Hawaii and Washington, D.C. In Montana, medical aid in dying has been legal since a State Supreme Court ruling in 2009.
Switzerland’s right-to-die law, based on the constitutional right of each person to determine the manner of his or her death, is much broader. It doesn’t exclude foreigners and gives patients the option to end their life if they have psychological or physical problems associated with age.
The Swiss Academy of Medical Science said this year that the right to die should be extended to those who are not terminally ill but live with intolerable pain.
Dignitas, one of Switzerland's three assisted-death groups, told USA TODAY in a statement that Goodall's decision is "the consequence of the absurd Australian law, upheld by ignorant politicians, which denies people like Mr. Goodall access to legal, humane and compassionate end-of-suffering options.”
Goodall, described by the right-to-die group Exit International as its first member, said he had tried to take his life himself at least three times in the past before deciding to seek professional help.
According to The New Daily, Goodall, a Member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to science, worked in plant ecology and natural resource management well past the age of 100.
At 102, he successfully challenged a demand that he give up his office at Edith Cowan University in Perth.
Earlier this year, however, Goodall fell while home alone in his one-bedroom apartment and remained on the floor for two days until he was found by his cleaner, The New Daily reported.
Afterward, Goodall said he was considered incapable of looking after himself. Moreover, most of his friends were dead.
“Up to the age of 90 I was enjoying life, but not now,” he said. “It has passed me by, and I have done the best I can with it.”
Some religious groups and others have spoken against the voluntary death. In 2016, a Swiss bishop told Catholic priests not to give last rites to people seeking assisted suicide.
Stanglin reported from Washington, D.C.