National

David Goodall’s final days moving viewing

By AAP Newswire

In his final days, far from home on the other side of the world, 104-year-old scientist David Goodall was unwavering in his decision to die by his own hand and also to make it a very public event.

Professor Goodall, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2016 for his contribution to the field of ecology, took his own life on May 10 in Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal.

He was fiercely independent, lived on his own and was healthy but no longer found joy in life because his eyesight and mobility were poor.

At an extraordinary press conference the day before he died, the veteran actor gave one last performance, spontaneously singing Beethoven's Ode to Joy to a huge media pack from around the world.

He said he would have preferred to have died in Australia, but it was unfortunately "behind Switzerland".

Among the reporters who crammed into that Basel hotel room was ABC reporter Charlotte Hamlyn, who had accompanied the England-born grandfather from his adopted home in Perth, Western Australia, to Bordeaux in France, where he bid adieu to some of his family.

"That (press conference) was the first time I had seen him a little overwhelmed but he was a willing participant in all of that and he saw the value in speaking to as many people far and wide about this cause," Hamlyn told AAP.

"The voluntary euthanasia and the assisted dying movement had a willing poster-boy in David Goodall and probably saw an opportunity to make the most of that."

Hamlyn, who first met Prof Goodall when he turned 100 and is personally conflicted about the issue, said it was an incredible privilege to be allowed to join him for his final journey.

"I was always struck by the fact that David Goodall in his matter-of-fact way was rarely emotional about the entire process.

"I found watching the anguish of his family quite moving and quite confronting but he was always so resolute in what he was doing, I think it made it easier for his family and me to process all of that."

David's grandson Duncan Goodall flew from the US to Basel to be by his side.

"I still have a visceral reaction to it when I think about it," Duncan said.

"Having someone take their own life is repellent to me. But when you think it through and you sort of rationalise it ... it makes sense.'"

Prof Goodall's Bordeaux-based daughter-in-law Hana Goodall said it was the destiny of an unusual man to make an unusual decision.

Foreign Correspondent filmed Prof Goodall until his final hour, when he was instructed how to administer the drugs that killed him.

On His Own Terms airs on Tuesday night.