End-of-life and patient care advocate Peter Goodwin dies March 11

Peter Goodwin, MD

Faculty emeritus.
His dignified death and accomplished life.

Peter A. Goodwin, MD, Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine, died on March 11 at his Portland home surrounded by family. He was 83.

Diagnosed six years earlier with corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, a rare and progressive neurodegenerative disease, Dr. Goodwin ended his life in accordance with Oregon's Measure 16 "Death with Dignity Act," the landmark legislation that he helped craft and champion into law in 1997. The act allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.

A well-known physician advocate and one of many who helped catapult Oregon into national prominence on end-of- life issues, Dr. Goodwin said the act's passage, and subsequent effect on caring for the terminally ill, gave him the most gratification of all his professional achievements.

"As the most prominent Oregon physician to speak out, to side with patients who would rather die than suffer that last heroic treatment, whatever the odds of success, whatever the pain, he helped change the practice of medical care for the dying," wrote the Oregonian in an editorial. "All over this state -- and across much of the world -- there is a new and better standard of compassionate medical care. Doctors have evolved from the 'fix-it' philosophy that led to so much invasive, painful, unnecessary and hopeless medical treatment. Hospice programs are much stronger than before. Pain is better controlled. More people are choosing to die at home, surrounded by love ones."

Peter & Erica GoodwinDr. Goodwin was born in London and grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. He earned his medical degree from University of Cape Town Medical School in 1951. Dr. Goodwin practiced in Camas, Wash. for more than 15 years before joining the OHSU faculty in 1976. As a member of the faculty, he pursued interests in occupational and environmental medicine and primary care orthopedics and was well known for his excellence in medical teaching, mentorship of residents and clinical care.

Motivated by the experiences of terminally ill patients in his practice, Dr. Goodwin became increasingly involved in end-of-life and physician-assisted suicide issues as well as improving care for the terminally ill. Aside from publicly advocating for Measure 16, he served as chairman of the Oregon Death with Dignity Committee.He was also a member of the Planned Parenthood of Columbia/Willamette board.

For his leadership in Oregon's Death with Dignity movement and its contributions to civil liberties and civil rights, Dr. Goodwin received the Oregon ACLU Civil Liberties Award in 2010.

"Peter looked at big questions clearly and fearlessly," said colleague Eric Walsh, Associate Professor of Family Medicine. "His intellectual drive and enthusiasm were an irresistible force. Most important, he included love in basically everything he said and did, especially at the end of his life. Peter lived a life where love was foundational, a through line, and the unifying principle of family, work, politics and legacy."

Dr. Goodwin offered some advice during his last interview with the Oregonian earlier this year. "Be happy. Know good friends. Be in love."


Pictured above: Peter Goodwin, MD, and Erica Goodwin


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