SYDNEY • Australia's oldest scientist, who caused a stir when his university tried to get him to vacate his office two years ago, will fly to Switzerland early this month to end his life, reigniting a national debate on euthanasia.
Professor David Goodall, who is 104, does not have a terminal illness but his quality of life has deteriorated and he has secured a fast-track appointment with an assisted dying agency in Basel, euthanasia advocates said.
"I greatly regret having reached that age," the ecologist told broadcaster ABC on his birthday earlier last month. "I'm not happy. I want to die. It's not sad particularly. What is sad is if one is prevented."
He added: "My feeling is that an old person like myself should have full citizenship rights including the right of assisted suicide."
Assisted suicide is illegal in most countries and was banned in Australia until the state of Victoria legalised the practice last year.
But that legislation, which takes effect from June next year, only applies to terminally ill patients of sound mind and a life expectancy of less than six months.
Other states in Australia have debated euthanasia in the past, but the proposals have always been defeated, mostly recently in New South Wales last year.
Exit International, which is helping Prof Goodall make the trip, said it was unjust that one of Australia's "oldest and most prominent citizens should be forced to travel to the other side of the world to die with dignity".
"A peaceful, dignified death is the entitlement of all who want it. And a person should not be forced to leave home to achieve it," it said on its website yesterday.
The group has launched a GoFundMe campaign to get plane tickets for Prof Goodall and his helper upgraded to business class from economy. It has so far raised more than A$17,000 (S$17,032).
Prof Goodall, an honorary research associate at Perth's Edith Cowan University, made global headlines in 2016 when he was declared unfit to be on campus.
After an uproar and support from scientists worldwide, the decision was reversed.
Prof Goodall has produced dozens of research papers and until recently continued to review and edit for different ecology journals.