At the end of their time on earth, Pat and Peter Shaw, a biochemist and an explorer/meteorologist, respectively, could look back on lives well lived. The suicide pact between the two, in which they knowingly took lethal drugs, was no act of desperation.
Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many — classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 percent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day [with their three daughters].
As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce. “It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law …,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.”
Last spring, things started going downhill fast for the Australian couple.