33 episodes

Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia.

Better Off Dead The Wheeler Centre

    • News
    • 4.7 • 469 Ratings

Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia.

    Bonus Episode 14: Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying

    Bonus Episode 14: Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying

    Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying law came into effect in June 2019. The first of its kind in Australia and touted as the most conservative in the world, the passing of Victoria’s law was a watershed moment for end-of-life care in this country.

    More than eighteen months on, in April 2021, what effect is this law having on end-of-life care for terminally ill Victorians? Is the law working as planned? And is there room for improvement?

    The final episode of Better Off Dead season two centres on a recording of the Wheeler Centre’s Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying panel discussion. Previously broadcast on Radio National’s Big Ideas programme, it features a panel discussion on voluntary assisted dying hosted by Paul Barclay. Panelists include Andrew Denton, founder of Go Gentle Australia and host of the Better Off Dead podcast; Justice Betty King QC, Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board; Professor Phillip Parente, oncologist; and Ron Poole, a terminally ill Shepparton man who has chosen to access the voluntary assisted dying life-ending medication.

    Our special thanks to Ron Poole, who generously took time out of the precious final days of his life to share his perspective on voluntary assisted dying. Ron died on 26 April, less than a week after this panel discussion took place. Our thoughts are with his loved ones.



    "People come to this often – late. And they come late because they really haven’t known about it, haven’t been told about it or are in a situation where they don’t want to face mortality."Justice Betty KingKnow more
    Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Audio: Legalising Voluntary Assisted Dying -- Radio National’s Big Ideas programme, part of Caxton Legal Centre's 'Justice in Focus' series. Presented in conjunction with QUT. Recorded on 21 February 2019
    Visit: Voluntary Assisted Dying -- Victorian Health official website

    In order of appearance: Paul Barclay, Ron Poole, Andrew Denton, Phillip Parente, Betty King

    Better Off Deadseason two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia. 

    Learn more about Go Gentle Australia’s work. 

    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)

    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Page and transcript: Alice Boyle (The Wheeler Centre)
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert                                                                                                              
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser

    Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, and subscribe in iTunes, or follow via your favourite podcast app.

    #BetterOffDeadpodYour stories

    If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – or if you’ve had an experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying, we would love to hear from you. Tell your story here.Transcript

    Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format. 

    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 56 min
    #13 Unintended Consequences

    #13 Unintended Consequences

    When Victoria’s VAD law was passed in 2017, it was touted by Premier Daniel Andrews as ‘the most conservative in the world’. This was true. Its 68 safeguards made it a far more daunting law for terminally ill people to access than similar laws in other countries. 

    But was it too daunting? 

    Much was said in parliament by opponents about the law’s ‘unintended consequences’. What if there are wrongful deaths? What if the doctor-patient relationship is damaged? Palliative care diminished?

    None of these fears have turned out to be true. But that doesn’t mean there have been no unintended consequences. They’ve just turned out to be not as opponents argued.

    In this episode, we hear from the families of two eligible Victorians who struggled to access VAD. And we hear something never heard before —-- a father and daughter as they actually go through the process of applying for a VAD permit, a process during which initial gratitude quickly turns to frustration, fear and anger.

    Allan Cornell and his daughter Kristin: photo Supplied

    “She wrote numerous letters and made numerous phone calls to, it seemed like, 30 neurologists, but nobody would do it. And Helen's doctor said ,’I think this is gonna be a race between us getting the approval for the VAD and you dying’”Reg Jebb

    Helen and Reg Jebb. photo: Supplied

    “He was dying. He was suffering. He was begging, begging me the entire day to finish it. Where are they? Kristin? Where are they? Where are they?”Kristin Cornell

    Kristin Cornell: “I am so encouraged by the existence of this legislation – but there is more we can do. We can do this better. It shouldn’t be so hard that one is tempted to give up.” Photo: Juliet LamontListenEpisode Extra: Doctors Discuss the Unintended Consequences of Victoria's VAD LawEmbed playerKnow more
    Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Article: ‘Assisted dying is not the easy way out’ — The Conversation, 19 Feb 2020
    Article: ‘Without more detail, it’s premature to say voluntary assisted dying laws in Victoria are ‘working well’’ — The Conversation, 21 Feb 2020
    Article: ‘Heartachingly painful: Allan waited for 100 days before being granted permit to die’ — The Age, 21 June 2020In this episode

    In order of appearance: Kristin Cornell, Allan Cornell, Reg Jebb, Betty King, Greg Mewitt, Nola Maxfield, Andrea Bendrups and Nick Carr

    Better Off Dead season two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia.

    Learn more about Go Gentle Australia’s work.

    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta, with assistance from Adam Rothwell
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)

    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre)
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
    Transcript: Alice Boyle
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
    Music: James Domeyko

    Special thanks to our interviewees Kristin Cornell and Reg Jebb for their time for this episode.

    Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©

    Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, and subscribe in iTunes, or follow via your favourite podcast app.

    #BetterOffDeadpodYour stories

    If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – or if you’ve had an experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying, we would love to hear from you. Tell your story here.Transcript

    Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format. 

    See omnystudio

    • 41 min
    #12 A Cry For Help

    #12 A Cry For Help

    Whether it is through the words of the pope, his representatives the bishops and archbishops, or its surrogates in the medical profession, the Catholic Church remains the most determined force against voluntary assisted dying in Australia.

    In 2020, The Vatican released its latest encyclical on assisted dying and euthanasia. They called it Samaritanus Bonus – the Good Samaritan – and this is what it had to say about people who seek assistance to die.

    “Experience confirms that the pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love.”

    Requests for assistance to die are ‘not to be understood as a true desire for euthanasia.’ In other words, the people making them are somehow misguided.

    According to this narrative, people making such requests are likely to be demoralised; lonely; abandoned, feeling like a burden; or struggling to find meaning in – or even giving up on - their lives. And that, with the right kind of love and care, these things can be addressed.

    In this episode, we hear from some of the most senior figures in Australian palliative care. We also hear from others who have a different understanding of such requests, and who believe that the people who make them can be both considered and rational.

    Professor Michael Ashby Photo: Supplied

    Palliative care clinician Molly Carlile AM: “It has to be about why are we doing this. Who is it for? If it's about us, we have to ask: how does our view on a whole lot of things influence our practice?” photo: Supplied



    “It is not the role of any healthcare team to suggest that its ministrations can give meaning, purpose and dignity to a dying person’s remaining life if that person feels that these are irretrievably lost... Palliative care is a model of care, not a moral crusade.”Professor Michael AshbyKnow more
    Visit: Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Video: Assad, Assisted Dying and Satire – ABC TV Q&A, 10 April 2017
    Video: Q&A with the Archbishop - How do I explain the Catholic Church's teaching on euthanasia? – The Catholic Leader YouTube, 14 July 2014
    Video: Experienced Victorian doctors warn Tasmania on dangerous bill – Australian Care Alliance, 9 September 2020
    Video: Prof David Kissane: Euthanasia is terrible for medicine & society  – Life, Marriage and Family Office 23 June, 2017
    Article: Defending the indefensible? Psychiatry, assisted suicide and human freedom – Profesor Malcolm Parker, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 36, issues 5-6 2013In this episode (in order of appearance)

    Ron Fellows, Margaret Somerville, Patricia Fellows, Megan Best, Mark Coleridge, Jean Caliste, Jacqui Hicks, Nicole Robertson, Deb M, Katie Harley, Kristin Cornell, Peter Jones, Ron Poole, Fiona McClure, Phillip Parente, Peter Lange, Betty King, Michael Dooley, Anthony Fisher, Stephen Parnis, Michael Ashby, Natasha Michael, David Kissane, Malcolm Parker, Roger Hunt, Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Shayne Higson, Alex Broom, Kit Denton, Peter Abetz, Credits

    Better Off Deadseason two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia 

    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta, with assistance from Adam Rothwell
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)

    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre) 
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
    Transcript: Alice Boyle
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed

    • 51 min
    #11 The End of Life Lottery

    #11 The End of Life Lottery

    The assisted dying debate in Australia has revealed two parallel universes. The conservative Christian universe, which believes our lives belong to God; that whatever happens at the end of life is part of His plan. And the other universe – embracing 75% of Australians (including a majority of Christians) – with a shared belief we should have some control over how we die.

    Two different, but both entirely sincere, belief systems.

    What happens when these parallel universes intersect? What can it mean to die in a system where you are disempowered, and whose values you don’t share?

    Dame Cicely Saunders Photo: Wikimedia Commons

    Shayne Higson (second left), pictured with her sisters and their mother Jan (farthest right) who died of brain cancer: 'I thought that [with] terminal sedation … there would be no suffering, but that's not right' — Photo: supplied

    “What people don't realise is that they're entering an environment with particular values, and a history about what is okay, or not okay, and the nature of suffering. And by entering into that the patient and the family is almost embarking on an unwritten contract – that death will be not on my terms, but on the terms of the institution”Professor Alex BroomKnow more
    Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Article: We do not like to talk about death -- but that doesn’t make euthanasia the answer -- Richard Chye, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November, 2017
    Article: Assisted dying: My mother had the best palliative care -- and even that was not enough -- Shayne Higson, The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 November, 2017
    Audio: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (part 1) -- Megan Best, The Centre for Public Christianity, 24 June, 2013
    Film: ‘The Broken Hearted’ Go Gentle Australia, August 2019

    Jan K: 'You might think you're going to have great palliative care, but it is an absolute lottery. You can scream the place down if you want but, if they think that you're comfortable, that's it.' Photo: Joshua Raymond In this episode

    In order of appearance: 

    Katie Harley, Megan Best, Alex Broom, Richard Chye, Shayne Higson, Roger Hunt, Jan K.Credits

    Better Off Dead season two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia 

    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)


    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre)
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
    Transcript: Alice Boyle
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
    Music: Aaron Gleeson

    Special thanks to our interviewees Shayne Higson, Alex Broom, Roger Hunt and Jan K for their time for this episode.

    Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©

    Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, and subscribe in iTunes, or follow via your favourite podcast app.

    #BetterOffDeadpodYour stories

    If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – or if you’ve had an experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying, we would love to hear from you. Tell your story here.Transcript

    Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format. 


    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 50 min
    #10 We Who Walk Towards Death

    #10 We Who Walk Towards Death

    At the heart of the political debate around voluntary assisted dying lies palliative care. On one side sits the argument that it can effectively deal with all pain and suffering, and that it should be made available to everyone before Assisted Dying is made legal.

    On the other, a recognition that – for all its benefits – palliative care cannot help everyone, and that those beyond its help should not be left to suffer, or – as some do – take their own lives.

    But beyond the political debate, within palliative care lies a much deeper argument. One about values.

    Palliative care’s background is as a provider of Christian care; more than half of Australia’s palliative care is supplied by The Catholic Church. According to The Vatican, assisting someone to die is ‘intrinsically evil.’

    By papal decree, any request by a person for help to end their life is not to be taken as genuine, but is to be understood instead as ‘an anguished plea for help and love.’

    But some palliative care clinicians have a different set of values. They see that their primary purpose is to act in response to what their patient wants and needs. 

    It’s called person-centred care, a way of practising medicine that has been thrown into the sharpest focus imaginable by a law allowing doctors to help their patients to die.

    Palliative care clinician, and death and dying expert Molly Carlile AM. Photo: supplied



    ‘The bottom line for me is, you can choose whether you want to stop having chemo or anything else that you consider as futile treatment. And we are the defenders of those people. So how can we say, in the same breath, “Yes, you can make your choices, so long as it's not voluntary assisted dying?”’Palliative care clinician, Molly Carlile AMFor more
    Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Video: Clive Deverall talk Freedom of Choice WA Launch – YouTube, 5 February 2017
    Article: Everyone Has the Right to Die Well – Molly Carlile, November 10, 2015
    Brochure: To Love to the End – Life, Marriage and Family Office, The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, 2011

    Dr Greg Mewett. ‘It's not for me to say how much someone's suffering and whether we can do more. It should be up to the individual.’ Photo: Juliet LamontIn this episode

    In order of appearance

    Jaala Pulford, Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Michael Ashby, Roger Hunt, Andrew Sloane, Anthony Fisher, Megan Best, John Flader, Tim Harris, Natasha Michael, Stephen Parnis, Jane Morris, Clive Deverall, Lisa Hogg, Alex Broom, Jan Kelly Credits

    Better Off Dead season two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia


    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta, with assistance from Adam Rothwell
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)

    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre) 
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
    Transcript: Alice Boyle
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
    Music: Jon Murphy, Brendan John Warner, Simon Kindt, Aaron Gleeson

    Special thanks to our interviewees Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Michael Ashby and Roger Hunt for their time for this episode.

    Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©Your stories

    If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – or if you’ve had an experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying, we would love to hear from you. Tell your story here.

    Subscribe via iTunes or your favourite podcast app.

    #bettero

    • 51 min
    #9 The Light Under the Bushel

    #9 The Light Under the Bushel

    In September 2020, as Tasmania’s Upper House prepared to debate an Assisted Dying bill, an article appeared on the online publication Mercatornet. Above a picture showing a graph of a flatlining heartbeat superimposed over an elderly hand was a headline in big, bold letters:

    ‘Grandma took her life yesterday. Her doctors helped her.’

    The article described a lonely, elderly woman, seemingly abandoned by her family in a Melbourne nursing home during COVID, encouraged by her doctors to end her life using Victoria’s Assisted Dying law.

    Photo: the image used by Mercatornet

    Within days, it was being promoted by religious groups and The Australian Family Association as a warning to MPs about why they should vote down the Tasmanian bill. 

    In this episode, we reveal the truth behind that story. Who was Grandma? Had her family really abandoned her? Was her decision to die her own, or was she encouraged?  

    And what was it that connected the crusading author and the website that gave her story a global platform?

    ‘Just to get out of bed, you could tell she was in pain... she was really struggling. My brother said, ‘God, if Mum could have that medicine tomorrow, she would take it.’ Everybody was understanding because we all knew what she'd been through and didn't want her to go through that again.‘Ruth’s’ daughter ‘Jane’For more
    Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
    Audio: Neil Mitchell clashes with former Catholic priest over protest outside Peter Mac Cancer Centre – 3AW Newstalk, 11 April 2019
    Video: Fatal Fraud: A case study of tactics employed against evidence-based public policy initiatives – Go Gentle Australia, August 2019
    Article: Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Service in Australia – Catholic Health Australia, June 2001
    Medical and Biblical Response to Euthanasia -- Dr Megan Best and Dr Andrew Sloane – Christian Medical and Dental fellowship of Australia, 2019In this episode 

    In order of appearance: 

    Neil Mitchell, Eugene Ahern, ‘Bronwyn’, ‘Jane’, Tom Kenyon, Helen Lord, Leon Compton, Megan Best, Andrew Sloane, Tom Keneally, Stephen Parnis, Roger Hunt, Greg Mewett, Molly CarlileCredits

    Better Off Deadseason two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia 

    Writer, Co-Producer and Host: Andrew Denton (Go Gentle Australia)
    Series Co-Producer and Script Editor: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton (The Wheeler Centre)
    Associate Producers: Kiki Paul and Steve Offner (Go Gentle Australia)
    Audio Editor and Engineer: Martin Peralta, with assistance from Adam Rothwell
    Production Assistant: Alex Gow (The Wheeler Centre)

    Marketing: Emily Harms (The Wheeler Centre), Steve Offner and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia) 
    Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media)
    Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre) 
    Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
    Transcript: Alice Boyle
    Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
    Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’ written and performed by Jordan Laser
    Music: Brendan John Warner, James Domeyko, Simon Kindt, Michael Cusack

    Special thanks to interviewees ‘Jane’ and her family and Thomas Keneally for their time for this episode.

    Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©

    Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, subscribe in iTunes, or via your favourite podcast app.

    #BetterOffDeadpodYour Stories

    If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – or if you’ve had an experience with Voluntary Assisted Dying, we would love to hear from you. Tell your story here.Transcript

    Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format. 


    See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
469 Ratings

469 Ratings

SSSSSSSDTGVBJVEFCGKKMKOVSSB ,

Amazing

I found this podcast very informative and very well put together I really enjoyed listening and I myself have learnt that assisted dying Isn’t a bad thing and this podcast has also helped many people understand that is not as simple as you would think.
Great job Andrew Denton never stop.

Nemtac ,

Andrew Denton you are the best

Never give up. Your conviction, presentation, of life and death stories are strong, sad and honest.
We have a long way to go but we are getting “ somewhere” .
In a palliative situation when a patient has had enough that should be respected.
One day……

Death with dignity ,

My life, my choice.

A brilliant podcast & discussion on our right to have control over our departure. I’m a former Registered nurse & have witnessed numerous deaths that made me feel very uncomfortable with our healthcare system & so called palliative care. Take control everyone, or it could be you. Exit international can provide guidance through this process.

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