As the product of his extensive research, in Australia and in overseas jurisdictions which have legalised assisted dying, Andrew Denton and The Wheeler Centre created a 17-part podcast series called “Better Off Dead”, which explores the issues surrounding voluntary assisted dying in Australia and beyond. Click on the episode name to listen to the episode or click the link at the end of the description to read the transcript of that episode.


  • #1 The invasion of death (08 mins) 8 Nov 2015 – Andrew Denton talks about the unforgettable event of his father Kit’s painful and protracted death in 1997. Since then he has been asking why good people are being forced to die bad deaths in Australia because we have no law for assisted dying, and now he has put everything else aside to investigate the answer to this question. Bonus Interview (18 mins) – Andrew Bunn from Essential Research takes us through the polling on assisted dying in contemporary Australia.  BOD episode 1 transcript


  • #2 How dare you want to end your life: Liz’s story (32.29 mins) 15 Feb 2016 – Denton spends time with Liz, a dynamic 48 year-old businesswoman who is dying of cancer. Palliative care have not been able to control her pain. Liz plans to die at her own hand with illegal medication, but is worried about incriminating any of her family and also of leaving it too long so that she is too sick to take the medication.  BOD episode 2 transcript


  • #3 The 80-year-old outlaw (32.24 mins) 16 Feb 2016 – How did a respectable 80-year-old urologist come to be a law-breaking cowboy? Over the last two decades, Dr Rodney Syme estimates that he has helped more than 100 people to die, despite the fact that assisting a suicide carries a maximum five-year jail term in Victoria. Bonus Interview (40 mins) – Sandra Morris about her partner of 40 years, Albert Leonzini, who was dying of motor neurone disease and obtained the lethal, illegal drug Nembutal.  BOD episode 3 transcript


  • #4 It can never be perfect, so why try and improve it? (32.03 mins) 17 Feb 2016 -Denton raises the idea that opponents of assisted dying want to leave things as they are, because of the worrying things they claim might happen if we did have a law. But Denton asks what about the worrying things that actually are happening because we don’t have one? Bonus Interview (36 mins) – Tasmanian man, Stuart Godfrey, who was charged in 2004 with assisting his mother, Elizabeth, to die.   BOD episode 4 transcript


  • #5 The keys to life and death in someone else’s hands: the Netherlands, part 1  (31.48 mins) 23 Feb 2016 – Focus on the situation in The Netherlands, which has the longest-running euthanasia laws in Europe. The drive to create the laws here did not come from politicians; it came from doctors who were already assisting people to die and wanted to be protected by transparent rules. The law in the Netherlands was never limited to the terminally ill but was deliberately created for people whose suffering is ‘unbearable and untreatable’, which may even include people with Alzheimer’s. Bonus Interview (69 mins) – The former chief executive of The Dutch Right To Die Organisation, Rob Jonquière. BOD episode 5 transcript



  • #7 The killing fields of Belgium: Belgium, part 1 (48.09 mins) 1 March 2016 -Belgium is the home to what the most liberal euthanasia laws in the world. Allegations are made of a euthanasia culture that has become so uncaring that the elderly are regularly despatched without their consent. Yet for all these claims, since Belgium’s euthanasia law was introduced in 2002, public support for it remains phenomenally high (over 80%) and there has been no procession of Belgians coming forward to complain about what the law has done to their families. Bonus Interview (86 mins) – Palliative care physician, and Jesuit, Marc Desmet discussing his own complex relationship with euthanasia. BOD episode 7 transcript


  • #8 Darkness visible: Marjorie, Edith and Laura: Belgium, part 2 (55.28 mins) 3 March 2016 -Continued focus on Belgium, including the story of a 24-year-old Belgium woman who has sought the right to be euthanised after years of unrelieved mental suffering. Bonus Interview (62 mins) – Dirk De Wachter, one of Belgium’s leading psychiatrists, who discusses the complexities of a practice that he nonetheless cautiously supports. BOD episode 8 transcript


  • #9 Why should one church decide for all of us? Death with dignity in Oregon (49.49 mins) 8 March 2016 –Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act 1997 allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose. It is the world’s longest-running law of this kind. All the evidence over the last two decades is that this law works exactly as intended. A terminally-ill 29 year old woman from California, Brittany Maynard, got worldwide attention in 2014 when she moved to Oregon to take advantage of their law and made very personal videos explaining her rational decision, supported by her family. Bonus Interview (86 mins) – Peg Sandeen, the executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center in Portland, Oregon who describes how Oregon’s law works, and the campaign to take it to other states in America. BOD episode 9 transcript


  • #10 Neither hasten nor prolong death (48.08 mins) 15 March 2016-Denton investigates how palliative care services in Australia cope with the sort of people who would elect to have an assisted death in Belgium, the Netherlands and Oregon, where good palliative care and assisted dying are both seen as part of the end-of-life bundle of choices. Bonus Interview (63 mins) – Alex Broom, Professor at Sociology at the University of NSW, who spent six months embedded in a Catholic hospice. What he got was a unique insight into the gulf that exists between many patients’ expressed wish for help to die, and the response they receive. BOD episode 10 transcript



  • #12 Velvet Ray (52.28 mins) 22 March 2016 –
    Ray Godbold is a palliative care nurse faced with terminal cancer – but he doesn’t want to die in palliative care. He knows what some doctors prefer not to admit – that not everything can be taken care of; that a patient’s choices about how they die are very limited; and that, sometimes, their dying involves a wildness nobody can predict. What Ray doesn’t know is that his own death will turn out to be everything he was hoping that he and his family would be spared. BOD episode 12 transcript


  • #13 Now They’re Killing Babies (36 mins) 24 March 2016 – Assisted dying has no more committed opponent than the Catholic Church. They have thrown resources, and the full weight of their political influence, against it wherever it has been proposed. The opponents of assisted dying have sown the seeds of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – to great effect. Bonus Interview (43 mins) – Tom Keneally, a successful Australian author and a former Catholic seminarian, who discusses the belief of some Catholics that pain can purify, and that suffering redeems the soul. He acknowledges that the level of suffering that dying people are forced to go through can depending upon what hospital they are unlucky enough to turn up in or which nursing home they happen to be in. BOD episode 13 transcript


  • #14 Australia’s Dark Little Secret (52.55 mins) 30 March 2016 -It asks about our elderly – rational men and women from loving families who, faced with an irreversible and painful decline into death, are deciding to kill themselves violently.  Denton examines statements made by two leading Australian coroners to the Victorian Parliament’s Standing committee on legal and social issues: Inquiry into end-of-life choices. Bonus Interview (19 mins) – Frances Coombe from SAVES about the choice to end his life made by her 94-year-old friend “Brownie” and about the grim choice being made by many elderly Australians. BOD episode 14 transcript


  • #15 Lawrie’s Story (43.5 mins) 5 April 2016 – At 50, father of two, Lawrie Daniel, is stricken with MS. He says living with MS is a frightening experience but what does it mean to Lawrie to be told “suicide is legal – what’s stopping you?” BOD episode 15 transcript


  • #16 Abandon Hope (43.39 mins) 7 April 2016 – After all Denton’s travelling and months of research, he sits down with HOPE’s founder and director, Paul Russell, to talk through what he has learned about voluntary assisted dying. BOD episode 16 transcript


  • #17 Why Do I Have to Go Through Hell to Get to Heaven?  (53 mins) 13 April 2016 – In this final episode, drawing on what has worked best overseas, Denton tells us what he thinks that law for assisted dying in Australia should look like and speaks to supportive stakeholders Bob Hawke and the Nurses Federation.  Bonus Interview (40 mins) – Richard Di Natale the Greens Leader discusses the reasoning behind the federal cross-party bill which he has sponsored and the tactics required to create political change on this issue in Australia. BOD episode 17 transcript


Please note: The content of this podcast and some of the articles written by Andrew Denton may be upsetting to those who do not like to recall their own experiences of suffering or watching those they care about suffer towards the end of their life. Denton’s podcast is not about suicide.