The final check-out

Andrew Donaldson writes on the qualifications needed to end it all


HOW typically punctilious of the Swiss that they put the 104-year-old Australian scientist David Goodall through some annoying bureaucratic rigmarole when he checked in to check out at one of their assisted suicide clinics.

According to reports, Goodall was “visibly frustrated” with the formal paperwork required by the Life Circle clinic in Basel before he was permitted to end his life on Thursday. “What are we waiting for?” he grumbled.

But even with the red tape out of the way, death did not come quickly. Goodall was first questioned as to whether he knew who he was, where he was and what he was about to do. Then he had to turn a wheel that allowed a lethal infusion to flow into his bloodstream through a cannula on his arm.

His last words, apparently, were, “This is taking an awfully long time!”

In the years before his death, Goodall had campaigned for legal assisted dying in Australia. Though not terminally ill, his eyesight and mobility had deteriorated considerably, and his life had stopped being enjoyable “five or ten years ago”, he said.

“What I would like,” he told a press conference on Wednesday, “is for other countries to follow Switzerland’s lead and make these facilities available to all clients, if they meet the requirements, and the requirements not just of age, but of mental capacity.”

This notion of qualifying to end it all intrigued some of the Mahogany Ridge regulars. Should, on the off chance, any of our public servants have a pressing need to meet their ancestors, would they be permitted to do so? 

Certainly, there’d be no shortage of assistants when it came to helping them on their way, but would they pass the mental capacity test? 

This, it must be said, was not meant as a slur or an insult but, well, there was, for example, this row over Grace Mugabe. 

There clearly hasn’t been much in the way of deep thinking here, judging by what we’re hearing from the Pretoria High Court where the DA and AfriForum are seeking an order to set aside the decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she attacked a young woman with an extension cord in a Sandton hotel room in August last year.

It now however appears that the then international relations and cooperation minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, did not grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity — but merely “recognised” that she had such status all along.

This by dint of the fact that she was married to an elderly African statesman and did a lot of shopping in Johannesburg on behalf of Zimbabwe. It seems rather silly of them that both the DA and Afriforum were not aware of this and may now have wasted the court’s time.

Come to think of it, and being the slapper that she literally is, Grace seems a natural when it comes to assisted dying. She’s a former nurse and, if rumours from Harare are to be believed, her husband is not enjoying his forced retirement; thanks to the violent mood swings chez Mugabe, he too may be thinking of a trip to Switzerland.

Back though to Goodall. A biologist and ecologist who was an honorary research associate at Perth’s Edith Cowan University, he has donated his body to science.

This is a good thing, and I wonder if there may now be an unseemly rush for Goodall’s body parts. Like his backbone.

Cyril Ramaphosa, for one, could do with a bit of spine with regard to the crisis over North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo. As one political commentator put it on a radio show, “The president is a process person and, in the process of processing the process, the process has become unmanageable.”

What that means is that Mahumapelo has gone rogue and the ruling party’s credibility up there is taking a bit of a beating. It’s all a bit like the situation with mayor Patricia de Lille and the DA in the City of Cape Town. The Patsy de Lillema, as we say.

Decisive action is needed. Ramaphosa should follow the example of Andile Lungisa, the young Nelson Mandela Bay ANC councillor who smashed a glass jug over the head of former municipal head of transport Rano Kayser in a heated meeting in October 2016. That is the tried and tested way to deal with political opponents.

True, Lungisa was this week jailed for an effective two years for assault after his application for leave to appeal his conviction and sentence was dismissed. All is not lost. He can still petition the Port Elizabeth High Court. 

But, that aside, DA councillors won’t be forgetting him in a hurry.

A version of this article first appeared in the Weekend Argus.