Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying

Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying

For years, the topic of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) has sent moral and ethical ripples through Australian political, civil and personal debate. Since VAD legislation came into effect in Victoria in June 2019, more than one hundred people have received legal and medical assistance to die. 

At this important panel discussion in April, we heard from medical and legal experts and those whose lives are impacted by the controversial legislation, including broadcaster and VAD advocate Andrew Denton, The Hon. Betty King QC, Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board, Ron Poole and oncologist Dr Phillip Parente. Hot on the tail of the second season of Denton’s podcast, Better Off Dead (co-produced by Go Gentle Australia and the Wheeler Centre), the panel discussed the personal, political and societal dimensions of VAD, the impact of the Victorian legislation, and the current and future status of VAD across the country. Hosted by Paul Barclay.


Portrait of Andrew Denton

Andrew Denton

Andrew Denton is widely recognised as one of Australian media's genuinely creative forces.

Portrait of Paul Barclay

Paul Barclay

Paul Barclay is a Walkley Award winning journalist and broadcaster with an appetite for ideas and in-depth analysis and discussion.

Paul has produced countless stories over more than 20 years for an array of programs on virtually all ABC radio networks.

He is currently the presenter of Big Ideas on ABC Radio National.

Portrait of Betty King

Betty King

Justice Betty King QC is Chairperson of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board and a former judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Her Honour joined the Victorian Bar in 1975 and practised in the criminal jurisdictions for both defence and prosecution. She was a Prosecutor for the Queen for the State of Victoria from 1986 until her appointment as the first Prosecutor for the Queen for the Commonwealth in 1989.

In 1992 she was appointed Queen’s Counsel. She became a judge of the County Court of Victoria in 2000 and a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2005 until her retirement in 2015.

Portrait of Ron Poole

Ron Poole

Ron Poole (77) lived in Shepparton and had idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He elected to pursue Voluntary Assisted Dying after receiving a prognosis of less than 6 months left to live.

‘It will come to that stage where I won’t be able to breathe properly by myself, I will just be puffing, puffing, puffing, 24 hours a day. Should the time come, I can phone up the doctor and say: “Righto, time to die.” It’s given me peace of mind, knowing that.’

Portrait of Phillip Parente

Phillip Parente

A/Prof Phillip Parente trained at Monash University graduating with First Class Honours in 1993. His current role is the Director of Cancer Services Eastern Health. His main areas of interest are Genitourinary Cancers, Lung Cancers and Melanoma and he is considered a clinical lead in these areas of oncology. With respect to oncology research he is principal investigator of numerous trials in his areas of interest. This has translated to numerous publications and presentations at local and international oncological conferences.