Bless you David Goodall

Bless you David Goodall

All thanks to, and blessings on, Prof David Goodall, 104, honorary research associate at Edith Cowan University, Perth. He is flying to Switzerland where be will he assisted by Exit International to end his life painlessly and peacefully. He has had a good life but it has, for him, come to an end. Now be wants to ‘rest in peace’. That’s a phrase we often use when someone has died. ‘May they rest in peace’ we say reverently. After a long life’s work it is a wholly acceptable state to want. We grant the wish to our favorite pet if it is suffering or painfully old. We do not grant it to ourselves.

We probably fight throughout our life for people to live with dignity. Rightly so. Every human has that right. Our progress towards achieving it is still rather slow. We support the causes dedicated to the removal of animal abuse. We put in some of our time to help children avoid suffering. We increasingly assist old people to have a dignified and comfortable last few years. And yet we insist that those wracked with pain who desperately want to die must soldier on to a bitter end. Why?

The sanctity of life is something very real and precious. Like all sacred things it is tempered by the quality of living we enjoy. Some argue that we are not the person to judge that quality of living. It is certainly true that we all have moments in our lives when we would bring them swiftly to an end if we didn’t pause to think about the impact on others and, in the end, upon ourselves. Hasty deaths are to be discouraged even more than hasty marriages. But a wish to die is not of itself wicked. When due consideration has been given to the rightful interests of others, nor is it a wicked act.

The arguments against assisted suicide and euthanasia can he summed up as religious (probably the biggest single argument), opportunity for covert murder, balance of mind upset and unable to make sensible decisions. Of course, a sensible decision is one that agrees with you. But not all other decisions are daft. My father, a devout man, asked a doctor to despatch him after years of pain and suffering not only by him but by those around him too. The doctor obliged – but this was 1968. He might be less willing to do so today. So much for compliance.

Religious arguments are understandable. However, we do not impose other religious beliefs on the non-believer – and when people try to they are accused of terrorist activities. Why we should impose living when the quality of life is demonstrably very poor escapes me. ‘Hope springs eternal’ I have heard used as justification for prolonging life. Certainly there are apparently miraculous cases of recovery but notice how seldom we hear of the evets of the life subsequent to recovery.

It is but a step from now until we decide to legalise assisted suicide, with strict regulations. My prayer is that those who can influence the decision to die do so with honour, with courage, with compassion and without bias. Many good people will be involved in a decision to end a life. Their motives will be mixed. All our motives are always mixed – that it what being a human is about.

Meanwhile we raise our glasses to David Goodall. At 104 you are a leader, sir. Thank you.

And may you rest in peace.