Australian scientist, 104, dies in assisted suicide in Switzerland

LIESTAL, Switzerland — A right-to-die group says 104-year-old Australian biologist David Goodall has ended his life in Switzerland.

Philipp Nitschke, director of Exit International, said Goodall was declared dead at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Goodall had traveled to Switzerland to take advantage of the country’s assisted-suicide laws.

The British-born scientist, described by Exit International as its first member, said this week that he had been contemplating the idea of suicide for about 20 years, but only started thinking about it for himself after his quality of life deteriorated over the last year.

He cited a lack of mobility, doctor’s restrictions and an Australian law prohibiting him from taking his own life among his complaints, but he was not ill.

On Wednesday, surprised by the turnout, the centenarian told a crowded news conference that he’s ready to go — possibly by lethal injection, but that he’ll defer to the doctors on the method.

He quipped that if he were to choose any final music for the procedure, it might be Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony — then sang a few bars in German for the cameras. He ruled out a return to his beloved Australian countryside.

“At my age, and even at rather less than my age, one wants to be free to choose the death and when the death is the appropriate time. My abilities have been declining over the past year or two, and my eyesight for the past five or six years, and I no longer want to continue life,” Goodall said. “I am happy to have the chance tomorrow to end it.”

The Swiss federal statistics office says the number of assisted suicides has been growing fast: Nine years ago, there were 297. By 2015, the most recent year tabulated, the figure had more than tripled to 965. Nearly 15 percent of the cases last year were people under 65 years old.

Goodall is not religious. But it happens that he plans to die on Ascension Day, which commemorates Jesus’ rise to heaven after final death — a coincidence not missed by some in predominantly Christian Switzerland.