Better Off Dead
View all episodes in this series
#8 The Good Samaritan
The key word in Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law is the first one: ‘voluntary’. By law, any doctor, nurse, or other health professional who conscientiously objects can choose not to participate in a person’s request for voluntary assisted dying.
But how does an institution balance its employees legal right to conscientiously object with its obligation to care for its patients?
In this episode, we meet Colin, a former champion swimmer and professor of philosophy who is dying and who has applied for the legal right to end his own life. Colin lives by the ancient Roman philosophy of Stoicism. This is what the Stoic Marcus Aurelius had to say about death: ‘Accept death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed’. For a Stoic, it is good to “choose to die well while you can”.
Colin is living in a Catholic nursing home. They have a very different philosophy about death and dying. To a staunch Catholic, choosing to end your life early is to “to take the place of God in deciding the moment of death”.
What happens when these two ancient philosophies meet in one Melbourne nursing home?
And when does ‘conscientious objection’ become ‘conscientious obstruction’?
Colin’s sister, Debra
“I don't understand how people can think that that's a good or an ethical thing to do to someone, like physically and emotionally to put people through that suffering”
Visit Go Gentle Australia gogentleaustralia.org.au
Letter to Mercy Health, Go Gentle Australia, 15 January 2021
Response from Mercy Health, 7 February 2021
Article: ‘George Pell, Our Man in Rome’, – The Good Weekend Magazine, 26 February 2019
Article: ‘Stoicism in a time of pandemic: how Marcus Aurelius can help’ – The Guardian 25 April 2020
In this episode (in order of appearance):
Deb M, Andrea Bendrups, Elliot D, John Stanton, Mark Coleridge, Peter Lange
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: James Domeyko, Aaron Gleeson
Special thanks to the family and medical carers of Colin M for their time for this episode.
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.
Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.
Andrew Denton is widely recognised as one of Australian media's genuinely creative forces.