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Better Off Dead Season 1: #4 It Can Never Be Perfect, So Why Try and Improve It?

Listen Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016
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Opponents of assisted dying in Australia want to leave things as they are, because of the worrying things they claim might happen if we did have a law.

But what about the worrying things that actually are happening because we don’t have one?

It is illegal in Australia to aid or abet a suicide, no matter the circumstances. This is, rightly, so that people aren’t encouraged to take their own lives when they are deeply vulnerable, or for someone else’s personal gain.

But it doesn’t take into account people like former Tasmanian nurse Cathy Pryor.

In the space of six months, Cathy assisted both her grievously ill parents to die. She was charged with, and found guilty, of attempted murder and assisting a suicide. Cathy went to jail until a judge decided that both were clearly acts of compassion, and allowed her to walk free.

The record shows Cathy is a convicted criminal. But should she ever have faced trial?

According to former Victorian Director Of Public Prosecutions, John Coldrey, it is inappropriate that someone acting out of love should have to go through what Cathy went through.

They find themselves often initially charged with murder and … I don’t think that society needs or requires that.’

Former Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, John Coldrey

As a judge, Coldrey has himself been faced with similar crimes. He recounts his emotional decision to let Victorian man Alex Maxwell walk free after assisting his cancer-stricken wife to die.

Left to right – Cathy Pryor; her mother Anne; her father Peter — Photos: Supplied

In a society when there is no law for assisted dying – but where people are being assisted to die anyway – Coldrey is just one of many who believe that our law around assisted dying needs to be reconsidered.



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) 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).



Know more

In this episode

  • Cathy Pryor
  • John Coldrey
  • Coral Levett
  • Rodney Syme
  • Margaret Otlowski
  • Marshall Perron

Our theme music was composed by Zig Zag Lane for Zapruder’s Other Films, and edited by Jon Tjhia. Music used in this episode includes ‘Hold Me Through’ (Luke Howard), ‘The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep)’ (Sunn O))) and Boris), ‘Hand, Be Still’ (Olafur Arnalds), ‘Dysnomia’ (Dawn of Midi), ‘We (Too) Shall Rest’ (Olafur Arnalds), ‘Burial on the Presidio Banks’ (This Will Destroy You), ‘I Might Be Wrong’ (Radiohead), ‘Weatherman Accountable’ (Big Noble), ‘Videotape’ (Radiohead) and ‘Forty-Eight Angels’ (Paul Kelly).

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.

Further information

Better Off Dead is produced by Thought Fox and the Wheeler Centre.

Executive producers Andrew Denton and Michael Williams. Producer and researcher Bronwen Reid. For Better Off Dead, the Wheeler Centre team includes Director Michael Williams, Head of Programming Emily Sexton, Projects Producer Amita Kirpalani and Digital Manager Jon Tjhia. Editing, sound design and mix on this episode is by Martin Peralta. Additional editing by Jon Tjhia.

Thank you

Thank you to Stanley Street Gallery in Sydney. Thanks also to Paul Kelly and Sony ATV for the use of his song ‘Forty Eight Angels’.

The series

Subscribe in iTunes, or your favourite podcast app. #betteroffdeadpod

Better Off Dead is produced by Thought Fox in partnership with the Wheeler Centre. It is written and created by Andrew Denton for Thought Fox.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.