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Better Off Dead Season 2: #11 The End of Life Lottery

Listen Tuesday, 18 May 2021
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The assisted dying debate in Australia has revealed two parallel universes. The conservative Christian universe, which believes our lives belong to God; that whatever happens at the end of life is part of His plan. And the other universe – embracing 75% of Australians (including a majority of Christians) – with a shared belief we should have some control over how we die.

Two different, but both entirely sincere, belief systems.

What happens when these parallel universes intersect? What can it mean to die in a system where you are disempowered, and whose values you don’t share?

Dame Cicely Saunders Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Shayne Higson (second left), pictured with her sisters and their mother Jan (farthest right) who died of brain cancer: ‘I thought that [with] terminal sedation … there would be no suffering, but that’s not right’ — Photo: supplied

What people don’t realise is that they’re entering an environment with particular values, and a history about what is okay, or not okay, and the nature of suffering. And by entering into that the patient and the family is almost embarking on an unwritten contract – that death will be not on my terms, but on the terms of the institution”

Professor Alex Broom

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Jan K: ‘You might think you’re going to have great palliative care, but it is an absolute lottery. You can scream the place down if you want but, if they think that you’re comfortable, that’s it.’ Photo: Joshua Raymond

In this episode

In order of appearance:

Katie Harley, Megan Best, Alex Broom, Richard Chye, Shayne Higson, Roger Hunt, Jan K.


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 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)
Episode Artwork: Megan Herbert
Transcript: Alice Boyle
Theme music: ‘Loydie’s Angel’, written and performed by Jordan Laser
Music: Aaron Gleeson

Special thanks to our interviewees Shayne Higson, Alex Broom, Roger Hunt and Jan K for their time for this episode.

Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©

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


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.


Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format

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).



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