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

I am sincerely gratified to have served as the chairman of the committee that successfully passed the Oregon

Death with Dignity Act. This was the most gratifying work I have done in my entire life. The people the law has helped, the peace of mind it has brought to patients and doctors—nothing has given me more gratification in all the other great events of my life.

Peter in the early days.
Peter in the early days.

In 2001 I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and of course that can be a fatal illness. Strangely, there was not a moment that I thought I was not going to recover. It was amazing I had that expectation because the oncologist said there was a 30-percent death rate, or maybe a 30-percent survival rate. I can’t even remember anymore. But it doesn’t matter because he made all the right choices, and I survived. Of course I did the advance directives and of course I did the POLST form. But making a date with death, I just didn’t do that.

Now I have a terminal illness, an unusual brain disease. It’s called corticobasal degeneration. What it does, it’s inexorably forward marching, and there is no treatment for it. So I’ve basically lost the function in my right hand, and I have a tremendous tremor in it as well. And my left hand is becoming more and more affected. My legs are becoming more and more affected. So I have difficulty walking, and more and more difficulty at times knowing where my right arm is. I hardly ever know where it is, and it does all sorts of things unexpectedly and independently. I’m determined that I’m not going to die the way this disease would force me to die, which is in a vegetative state.

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