Ruth Goodman wanted to spur debate by taking her own life.
At 91 years old, living alone in her Vancouver home, she was not terminally ill. Although she suffered from Crohn’s disease, by most standards, for someone just nine years short of a century in age, she was healthy and happy.
She had just renewed her licence to drive in December. She loved her grandchildren, family and friends, and going to the library to read. She was not depressed, and she was thinking clearly.
But she had made her choice about 25 years ago, shortly after her husband died. Before her body wore out, before she became dependent, before she lost her ability to choose, she would commit suicide. And so in late January, while gathered with family in Vancouver, she told them, “it’s time to write the letter.”
“I am a 91-year-old woman who has decided to end my life in the very near future. I do not have a terminal illness; I am simply old, tired and becoming dependent, after a wonderful life of independence,” she wrote. “By the time people read this, I will have died. I am writing this letter to advocate for a change in the law so that all will be able to make this choice.”
I do not have a terminal illness; I am simply old, tired and becoming dependent, after a wonderful life of independence
On Feb. 2, after organizing her affairs and tidying up at home, Ruth Goodman took a lethal dose of a barbiturate she had obtained by herself in South America, and she died alone, her family says. At his mother’s request, Toronto architect Dean Goodman submitted her letter to a national newspaper.
In an interview Saturday, Dean Goodman talked about his mother’s life, and explained how she became increasingly committed to her choice.
Ruth Goodman was from New York, and was a lifelong activist for personal freedoms, her son said. The Goodmans moved to Vancouver from Seattle in 1966, in protest of the Vietnam War and racism in the United States.
In Vancouver Ruth Goodman worked at an abortion clinic and supported women’s rights, and she was actively involved in B.C. Civil Liberties Association causes. Later in life she joined the Australian right-to-die group, Death with Dignity.