Podcast episodeCover image for of #1 The Belly of the Beast

Better Off Dead

1 The Belly of the Beast  /  Life & death

Episode artwork by Megan Herbert

Spurred by watching his own father die painfully, in 2015 Andrew Denton set out to investigate – why are good people being forced to die bad deaths? 

Five years later, Victoria is the first state in Australia to have passed a voluntary assisted dying law. In the first year of the law’s operation, over 120 people sought assistance to die. More than a year into its operation, it is possible to look at the hypothetical harms (and genuine fears) raised by those opposed to the law and compare them with the actual experience of assisted dying.

Paul, Michelle and Jean Caliste, with a photo of Robbie — Photo: Supplied

In the first episode of season two of Better Off Dead, we meet the family of 36-year-old Robbie Caliste. Robbie was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in the same year the Victorian parliament endorsed medical assistance to die. In November 2019, he became the youngest person to die under the law.

Robbie and his parents Jean and Michelle help us understand the word which, more than any other, underpins what this law is all about; a word beyond ‘pain’ – suffering.

“He didn't want Motor Neuron Disease to win ... He didn't want to be literally that prisoner in the body and looking at you with his eyes. It had done enough damage to him and he knew what the outcome was going to be.” – Jean and Michelle Caliste

Robbie Caliste with his mother and brother — Photo: Supplied

Please note: this podcast is not about suicide. If you are interested in increasing your understanding of suicide and how to support someone experiencing suicidal ideation, visit the Conversations Matter or beyondblue websites.

If you or someone you know needs support please contact one of the following 24/7 crisis support services: Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), MensLine (1300 78 99 78), beyondblue (1300 22 4636), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or eheadspace (1800 650 890). If you are at risk of harm to yourself or others, contact emergency

Podcast episodeCover image for of Season 2 Trailer

Better Off Dead

Season 2 Trailer  /  Life & death

Andrew Denton investigates the stories behind Victoria’s landmark Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law: Who seeks to use it, and why? Who are the doctors stepping forward to help them? And how does the church continue to resist a law it describes as ‘evil’?

Co-produced by Go Gentle Australia and the Wheeler Centre, season two of Better Off Dead looks at what happened in Victoria after the legislation came into effect in June 2019.

"It’s not an easy process. But neither should it 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." – Former Supreme Court Justice, Betty King, now Chair of the Voluntary Assisted Dying Review Board.

Please note: this podcast is not about suicide. If you are interested in increasing your understanding of suicide and how to support someone experiencing suicidal ideation, visit Conversations Matter or BeyondBlue.

If you (or someone you know) require immediate assistance, contact one of the following 24/7 crisis support services: Lifeline (13 11 14), Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), MensLine (1300 78 99 78), beyondblue (1300 22 4636), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or eheadspace (1800 650 890).

In this episode

In order of appearance: Andrew Denton, Katie Harley, Dr Kristin Cornell, Jean Caliste, Dr Greg Mewett, Dr Cameron McLaren, Professor Michael Dooley, Former Justice Betty King QC, Molly Carlile AM, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Dr Andrea Bendrups, Lisa Hogg.

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 (Go Gentle Australia) and Frankie Bennett (Go Gentle Australia)  
Publicity: Debbie McInnes (DMCPR Media) 
Episode Pages: Mia McAuslan (The Wheeler Centre) 
Commissioning Editors: Kiki Paul (Go Gentle Australia) and Caro Llewellyn (The Wheeler Centre) 
Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser

Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, and subscribe in iTunes, or via your favourite podcast app. 


Your Stories

If you're…

Podcast episodeCover image for of High Notes: Michael Pollan on the New Science of Psychedelics

The Wheeler Centre

High Notes: Michael Pollan on the New Science of Psychedelics  /  Drugs

For years, Michael Pollan's books have changed minds.

Pollan’s books, like The Botany of DesireThe Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, the latter now also a successful Netflix series – have strongly influenced contemporary ideas about agriculture, nature, nutrition and ethics. He's sparked debates on genetically modified organisms, and even on the definition of 'food' … and he's done it with charm, imagination and gusto, bringing serious scientific heft and optimism to all his work.

Michael Pollan and Christine Kenneally at Melbourne Town Hall — Photo: Scott Limbrick

Pollan’s latest investigation is more explicitly concerned than ever with changing minds. This time, he’s turned his attention to psychedelic drugs; their history and their potential. Pollan wants us to look beyond the myriad misconceptions and clichés to understand the groundbreaking new science around hallucinogens. In How To Change Your Mind, he discovers how they can help us learn more about human consciousness – as well as the benefits they may offer in the treatment of many illnesses.

A reviewer for the New York Times wrote that ‘[Pollan] makes losing your mind sound like the sanest thing a person could do’. Listen in as this icon of science journalism joins Christine Kenneally for a conversation about his most personal work yet.

Anything and everything in Life & death from across our archives.

Page 1 of 9
Page 1 of 9