Part of a podcast series

Better Off Dead

View all episodes in this series

#3 Lucky Phil

Listen to #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’?

Katie Harley and her father ‘Lucky’ Phil Ferrarotto. “It was like Dad designed … those last few moments and it was exactly the way he wanted it.” - Photo: Supplied

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’.


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.”

Katie Harley, Phil’s daughter

Katie and Dr Cameron McLaren. “Something incredible happened between Dad and Cam. They built up a fabulous rapport.” - Photo: Juliet Lamont

Further reading

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.


Phil’s letter to Cameron. “I am so proud of the job that you have done. And I'm eternally thankful. Best wishes for your future, mate. Phil Ferrorotto” - Photo: Juliet Lamont

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 – add your voice and tell your story here.


Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.


Portrait of Andrew Denton

Andrew Denton

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

Better Off Dead

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