David Goodall’s death a final contribution to society, says daughter

Dr Goodall in his office at ECU Joondalup in January 2016. Picture: Martin Kennealey
Dr Goodall in his office at ECU Joondalup in January 2016. Picture: Martin Kennealey

PERTH academic David Goodall’s death was a final contribution to society, according to his daughter.

The 104-year-old took his own life yesterday after travelling to Switzerland where he could legally be helped to die.

“He has always felt that there’s no point being in this world and surviving if you can’t make a difference, if you can’t contribute to society,” Karen Goodall-Smith told the ABC.

“By doing this so publicly he’s making a huge contribution to the euthanasia debate.”

The academic’s university, ECU, marked his passing with “great sadness”.

“Dr Goodall was a highly respected ecologist, authoring more than 100 research publications and supervising numerous students,” acting Vice-Chancellor Arshad Omari said.

“His career spanned more than seven decades and took him around the world, with positions at the University of Reading, University of California and CSIRO. He retired in 1979.

“In 1998 ECU appointed him as an Honorary Research Associate (and was later appointed an Honorary Research Fellow), a role he held up until his passing.”

Dr Goodall in his office at ECU Joondalup in January 2016. Picture: Martin Kennealey

In 2016 Dr Goodall was made a Member of the Order of Australia, recognising his contribution to the field of ecology.

“On behalf of the entire ECU community, I extend my sincerest condolences to his family during this time,” Professor Omari said.

In his final hours at the Basel clinic, Prof Goodall enjoyed his favourite dinner: fish and chips and cheesecake.

And in his final minutes surrounded by family, a German-sung version of the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, was played in line with his wishes.

He sang a few bars of the famous piece at his last press conference on Wednesday.

The esteemed ecologist was bemused by enormous media interest in his story but saw it as an important opportunity to stimulate debate about voluntary euthanasia.

“At my age, or less than my age, one wants to be free to choose the death when the death is at an appropriate time,” he told reporters.

He said he would have preferred to die in Australia.

Prof Goodall spent his final full day exploring botanic gardens with three of his grandchildren, who said they were proud of his bravery in the face of great public attention and were glad he would die on his own terms.

David Goodall sits with two of his grandchildren (the granddaughter, R, is sitting in his wheelchair) while touring the Basel University Botanical Gardens the day before his death. Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

It is expected he will be cremated in Switzerland, with his ashes to remain in the country, while his family in Perth will hold a memorial in coming months.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

-With AAP

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