One of the first doctors to support Oregon’s controversial assisted-suicide law has used it to end his own life. Dr Peter Goodwin was diagnosed with a rare brain disease, corticobasal degeneration. This condition can affect balance, muscle control and speech, as well as cognitive abilities, as it progresses. Last September, Goodwin said he was considering when might be the right time to die. He was not sure at the time, saying: “I don’t want to die…No way do I want to die. I enjoy life; I enjoy company; I enjoy my friends. I have many, many, many friends.” He was almost 83.
Oregon’s law allows doctors to prescribe medication to hasten the death of a patient who are believed to have six months to live. The patient must be mentally competent and must administer the medication to him or herself. Goodwin was concerned that he might lose his ability to use the law. “That possibility is something that I’m going to desperately try and avoid,” he said. “And so I’m going to try and have a six-month prognosis, making me eligible to use the law before I lose my marbles.” Goodwin got the prognosis from his doctors in January. Two weeks ago, he swallowed a fast-acting barbiturate prescribed by his doctor, and died less than half an hour later. Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act was the first of its kind in America.