End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Dr. Peter Goodwin Leaves a Lasting Legacy

Voices of Compassion > Stories > Dr. Peter Goodwin Leaves a Lasting Legacy

Dr. Peter Goodwin: In His Own Words

I started off my medical career as most doctors do: an arrogant know-it-all. I practiced in Queenstown, South Africa, and death was ever-present. Through the years many people informed me and helped shape the doctor and person I became. My wife notably, along with several patients, doctors, nurses and psychologists I have worked with, all helped make me a better person. Medicine has scientific background, but human application. I learned over the years how important it was to practice medicine not on my patients, but with my patients. I’ve always had a feeling as a physician that I was doing good work, helping people; a most rewarding feeling.

Medicine has scientific background, but human application. I learned over the years how important it was to practice medicine not on my patients, but with my patients.

In 1972, a dying patient of mine, after eight years of intense pain from cancer, chemotherapy and surgeries, asked me to help end his life before he had to endure any more suffering. I helped him. I was totally on my own with no law in place. I could not talk to colleagues about this; I had to do this with him and his wife in private. I was so terrified I would lose my license, my career, and that my family would suffer. My decision to help was ruled by my heart, not my head. Did I make a huge mistake, I wondered? With each door knock I was certain it was the cops coming for me. As time passed and the cops never came, my worries eased. I realized I had done the right thing.

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