Dr. Peter Goodwin Leaves a Lasting Legacy
This experience reiterated my belief that there were people who were desperately in need of help to escape unnecessary suffering at the very end of life. I knew then policy needed to change to protect doctors who help their patients when in most need, policy that would encourage doctors not to abandon their dying patients by taking the fear of prosecution out of the equation. I am so honored to have been able to help some of those people find a peaceful end to a life well-lived.
I decided that I needed to do something active in order to help terminally ill patients, and the only way I knew I could do that – because it was very difficult to change attitudes and treatments of the medical profession – in 1989 I joined Hemlock Society, now Compassion & Choices, finding a community of people who believed as I did about end-of-life choice. Then we had several meetings and briefly discussed the possibility of introducing an initiative.
There was a lot of criticism [from some doctors] and a lot of bleak references to my lack of moral standing, my lack of ethical understanding of the issues, the fact that I didn’t seem to be ethically bound as religious people felt that they would be. But I also got gratification from people who approached me after meetings, and there were a sprinkling of physicians almost always who came up to congratulate me and tell me that it was an important issue and that it needed to be discussed.
My decision to help was ruled by my heart, not my head.The other thing that was gratifying was to meet people outside of the medical profession who were much more aware of the issues. For example, when I talked with editors and some of the newspapers in the smaller towns, they had a much different image of aid in dying, and some of them were actually supportive. The local papers around the state came down in favor of the legislation.