Better Off Dead
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#3 Lucky Phil
“Thou shalt not kill” - The Sixth Commandment
Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying law was written to allow an eligible, terminally ill patient to drink a lethal medication to end their suffering; choosing to drink being considered the ultimate voluntary act.
But the law allows, in exceptional circumstances, for a doctor to intravenously administer that medication to end their patient’s life.
Who would need such a thing? And what impact does it have on a doctor when they are asked to transgress the age-old commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’?
In this episode, we meet oncologist Cam McLaren, who is faced with the question, “Am I capable of ending my patient’s life?” And we meet Katie Harley. Her father Phil – Cam’s patient – has had so many forms of cancer, he’s like a gothic version of the Cheshire Cat – more and more of him removed till just about all that’s left is his smile.
But smile he still does. Because, despite everything, Katie's dad calls himself ‘Lucky Phil’.
Katie Harley, Phil’s daughter
“Till the day I die, it'll be the most courageous thing I've ever seen anyone do. To look a man in the eye and to know that he's about to end your life and then to write him a letter and say thank you, that's courage beyond measure.”
Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
- Article: 'It was kindness and it was a mercy: The doctor helping people to die’– The Age, 26 December 2019
- Video and article: ‘Victoria’s euthanasia scheme sees more than 52 people use assisted dying in first six months’ – AAP/7News, 19 February 2020
- Report: ‘Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board: Report of Operations January to June 2020’ – Safer Care Victoria, 31 August 2020
In this episode
In order of appearance: Mark Yates, Cameron McLaren, Katie Harley, Ray Godbold, Robyn Godbold, Tara Godbold, Rory Godbold, Ella Godbold, Mariska Koster
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)
Episode 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
Episode artwork: Megan Herbert
Special thanks to our interviewees Katie Harley and Cameron McLaren for their time for this episode.
Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, and subscribe in iTunes, or follow via your favourite podcast app.
If you're suffering, or someone you love has died badly – in a hospital, in palliative care, in a nursing home, or at home – add your voice and tell your story here.
Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.
Andrew Denton is widely recognised as one of Australian media's genuinely creative forces.