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Better Off Dead

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#7 The ‘C’ Word

Listen to #7 The ‘C’ Word

There are many firsts in Betty King’s life. First female prosecutor for the state of Victoria. First female prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Australia. First female silk in Victoria. Now another – first Chair of Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board.

Reporting to parliament, the Board oversees the processes of the law with its 68 safeguards, ensuring that doctors adhere to the rules, and that the people seeking assistance to die are competent and not being coerced.

Of all the doubts raised by MPs in the parliamentary debate about assisted dying, none was more frequent than the fear that a vulnerable person may be coerced to their death by heartless relatives through the VAD law. 

In this episode, we meet Betty – the “Guardian of the Safeguards’ – as well as doctors, palliative care physicians, pharmacists, VAD Care Navigators, and families of those who have been through the process to find out whether any of those fears have turned out to be true.

And we discover there is another, unwritten safeguard:  To take this path, you have to have enormous courage.

The Hon. Betty King QC, Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board speaking on the panel at the Wheeler Centre's Last Words: Voluntary Assisted Dying event - Photo: Tiffany Garvie


It's not an easy process. But neither it should be. This is the ending of a life. And it ought to be treated in a serious manner. Because it's a serious thing to do.”

Betty King

Know More

In this episode (in order of appearance):

Betty King, Stephen Parnis, John Daffy, John Stanton, Nola Maxfield, David Speakman, Susan D, Melanie D, Katie Harley, Andrea Bendrups, Greg Mewett, Nick Carr, Phillip Parente, Cameron McLaren, Peter Lange, Kristin Cornell, Lisa Hogg, Reg Jebb, Jean Caliste, Nicole Robertson, Jon Faine, Jacqui Hicks, Michael Dooley, Molly Carlile


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)
Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
Music: Aaron Gleeson, Martin Peralta

Special thanks to our interviewee Betty King for her time for this episode.

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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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.