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Dr. Peter Goodwin, Oregon Physician Behind ‘Death With Dignity’ Act, Ends His Life at 83

Dr. Peter Goodwin, a Portland physician who campaigned for an Oregon state law that allows patients with terminal conditions to end their lives, died Sunday after using lethal chemicals obtained under the act he championed. He was 83.

ABC News writes that Goodwin was surrounded by his four children and their spouses at the time of his passing.

The medication — a fast-acting barbiturate — gave Goodwin a “peaceful death” in less than 30 minutes, according to the advocacy group Compassion Choices, which announced Goodwin’s death.

“It was a good death and the family appreciated that,” C&C spokesman Steve Hopcraft told ABCNews.com. “Peter was unique.”

Goodwin was diagnosed in 2006 with a rare brain disorder, corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, that progressively robbed him of his movement. By January of 2012, his doctors estimated he had six months to live.

Years earlier, campaigning for an Oregon assisted suicide law, he talked publicly about what he would do if he received a terminal diagnosis.

“I don’t want to go out with a whimper. I want to say goodbye to my kids and my wife with dignity. And I would end it,” he said years before his diagnosis, according to a profile published last month in The Oregonian.

Under the Oregon law, known as the Death with Dignity Act, doctors can prescribe medication to hasten the death of a terminally ill patient with a six-month prognosis. The patients must be mentally competent and administer the medication themselves.

Besides Goodwin, more than 500 people have used the Death With Dignity law to end their lives.

The initiative — the first in the country — has survived a Supreme Court challenge. Physician-assisted death is also legal in Washington state.

Following Goodwin’s death, Compassion Choices president Barbara Coombs Lee released the following statement:

“I was honored to call Peter Goodwin a compatriot and a friend. Our hearts are broken at this loss. The state of Oregon, medicine and the world have lost a great leader. Most of all, our sympathies are with his family, whom he dearly loved.”

Readers: What are your thoughts on Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act? Do you think terminally ill patients should be given the choice to end their lives on their own time-frame?

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