Peter Goodwin Is Dying: An Assisted-Suicide Doctor Invokes Law He Built
Mar 4, 2012 10:00 AM EST
These are the first words Peter Goodwin says when I answer the phone.
Goodwin is dying. He has corticobasal degeneration, a condition that resembles Parkinson’s disease, but takes a much more aggressive and lethal course. And so, in the very near future—maybe weeks, maybe months—Goodwin, a resident of Oregon, will use that state’s controversial Death With Dignity Act to end his own life.
That Goodwin should find himself in this situation is a novelistic twist, considering that he was one of the doctors responsible for getting the law passed in the first place.
The Death With Dignity Act became legal in Oregon in 1997. Since then, more than 500 terminally ill patients have used its provisions to end their lives with their doctor’s help. The number of patients who opt for this course has increased every year since the law went into effect.
Goodwin became involved in the effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide because of his own experiences as a physician.
“The medical profession was really ill-prepared to deal with the terminally ill. So the elderly patients were often just shunted aside. I was as guilty as anyone else—what can you do when someone is dying? You just look in through the door and say, ‘Hello, how’s everything going?’ and then you slip out as quickly as possible,” he says. “And I thought, this was nonsensical. We should be doing this.”