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Better Off Dead

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#6 The Locked Box

Listen to #6 The Locked Box

Imagine turning up to work one day to discover flyers outside your office accusing you of being a ‘death peddler’ and an ‘Uber service for poison’.

Professor Michael Dooley runs Victoria’s Statewide Pharmacy Service. When voluntary assisted dying became legal it was his job, and that of his team, to come up with medication that would effectively and painlessly end a terminally ill person’s life - and also a way to safely get it to them.

Statewide pharmacists Prof Michael Dooley (right) and David Seymour. “We've told them very, very clearly that if they take that medication, it will kill them. Saying that the first time to someone sitting two feet in front of you is probably the hardest part.” - Photo: Juliet Lamont

Michael and his team are the last step – and the final safeguard – in the long legal process a dying person has to go through to access the medication.

What is it like to walk into someone’s home to give them a draught designed to end their life? Who do they meet and what do they hear? And what happens if, at this very last step, they have to tell someone, ‘I’m sorry, but no.’?

We find leaving very, very difficult. Because you have to say goodbye... and we've all talked about how we do it… And there's no easy way and we all have our own little way. You know, it's not a normal goodbye.”

Professor Michael Dooley

Nicole Robertson and Jacqui Hicks, with a photo of their mum Kerry Roberston. - Photo: Kristian Silva, ABC Melbourne

The Locked Box. - Photo: Supplied

Know More

In this episode (in order of appearance):

Kristin Cornell, Michael Dooley, Nicole Robertson, Debra M, Kristin Cornell, Jacqui Hicks, Jon Faine, Jean Caliste, Katie Harley, Liz Le Noble, Jason McKey


Better Off Dead 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
Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre)
Music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
Music: Jon Murphy, Aaron Gleeson, Brendon John Warner, Simon Kindt

Special thanks to our interviewee Michael Dooley for his 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.

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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.