Doctor who championed 'death with dignity' dies at 83

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Peter Goodwin, the first doctor in Oregon to campaign publicly for the terminally ill to obtain medical help in ending their lives, died shortly after exercising the right he fought to secure. He was 83.

Goodwin's four adult children and their spouses surrounded him in his apartment when he took a planned overdose of a prescribed drug Sunday.

He died less than 30 minutes later, said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion & Choices of Oregon.

Goodwin, a retired professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, was diagnosed six years ago with a rare neurological disorder called corticobasal ganglionic degeneration, which is similar to Parkinson's disease but has no treatment or cure.

He spent his last weeks talking on the phone with friends and accepting brief visits from longtime comrades. He said the Death with Dignity Act was his most significant public legacy because passage prodded medicine to improve palliative and hospice care of the dying.

Friends praised Goodwin as a brave public figure who took up a cause that in the early 1980s drew fierce criticism from Oregon's doctors, clergy and politicians.