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Better Off Dead Season 2: #4 Do No Harm

Listen Thursday, 22 Apr 2021
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No group has done more to persuade politicians to oppose assisted dying in Australia over the last 20 years than doctors. Citing their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm’, they argue that giving doctors the right to ‘kill’, instead of cure, will forever damage the doctor-patient relationship.

What they fight so fiercely to preserve is a world strongly influenced by Christian concepts of care, one where ‘doctor knows best’, even when it comes to the end of a person’s life.

Not all doctors feel this way. In this episode, we meet a number of physicians from very different backgrounds, who think the old paternalism is not always what’s best for their patients.

Dr Cameron McLaren – Photo: Juliet Lamont
Dr Nick Carr – “I remember how powerful it was … I just held her hand and I kissed her forehead and said goodbye, because it just felt right.” – Photo: Supplied
Each came to voluntary assisted dying through different paths, but from similar clinical experiences: the undeniable reality that there are some people at the end of life for whom medicine, however skilfully applied, can do no more.Far from being damaged by facilitating assistance to die, the relationships they have formed with their patients along the way have been among the most profound of their careers. 

I thought we were all going to do it. I think that was very naive in retrospect. When the legislation came out I thought … you know, patients wanted this, that’s the reason it’s put in. We look after patients, we practise patient-centred care, which means we should be providing the services that they want. ”

Dr Cameron McLaren

Dr Nola Maxfield. “I think it’s improved the relationship I’ve had with my patients.” – Photo: Supplied

Further reading

Dr Phillip Parente. “Views that doctors are overstepping the mark are incorrect. We’re allowing patients to take control.” – Photo: Juliet Lamont

In this episode

In order of appearance: Mark Yates, Nick Carr, Cameron McLaren, Nola Maxfield, Peter Lange, Phillip Parente, Lisa Hogg, Odette Spruijt, Helen Lord, Lisa Hogg, David Speakman, Katie Harley

Better Off Dead season two is produced by the Wheeler Centre and Go Gentle Australia

Learn more about Go Gentle Australia’s work

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)
Episode Transcript: Alice Boyle
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: Anthurium and Brendon John Warner
Episode artwork: Megan Herbert

Special thanks to our interviewees Cameron McLaren, Nick Carr, Greg Mewett, Andrea Bendrups, Peter Lange, David Speakman  and Phillip Parente for their time for this episode.

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 – add your voice and 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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