Skip to content

Better Off Dead Season 2: #9 The Light Under the Bushel

Listen Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Share this content

In September 2020, as Tasmania’s Upper House prepared to debate an Assisted Dying bill, an article appeared on the online publication Mercatornet. Above a picture showing a graph of a flatlining heartbeat superimposed over an elderly hand was a headline in big, bold letters:

‘Grandma took her life yesterday. Her doctors helped her.’

The article described a lonely, elderly woman, seemingly abandoned by her family in a Melbourne nursing home during COVID, encouraged by her doctors to end her life using Victoria’s Assisted Dying law.

Photo: the image used by Mercatornet


Within days, it was being promoted by religious groups and The Australian Family Association as a warning to MPs about why they should vote down the Tasmanian bill.

In this episode, we reveal the truth behind that story. Who was Grandma? Had her family really abandoned her? Was her decision to die her own, or was she encouraged?

And what was it that connected the crusading author and the website that gave her story a global platform?

Just to get out of bed, you could tell she was in pain… she was really struggling. My brother said, ‘God, if Mum could have that medicine tomorrow, she would take it.’ Everybody was understanding because we all knew what she’d been through and didn’t want her to go through that again.

‘Ruth’s’ daughter ‘Jane’


For more

In this episode

In order of appearance:

Neil Mitchell, Eugene Ahern, ‘Bronwyn’, ‘Jane’, Tom Kenyon, Helen Lord, Leon Compton, Megan Best, Andrew Sloane, Tom Keneally, Stephen Parnis, Roger Hunt, Greg Mewett, Molly Carlile


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, 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
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: Brendan John Warner, James Domeyko, Simon Kindt, Michael Cusack

Special thanks to interviewees ‘Jane’ and her family and Thomas Keneally for their time for this episode.

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

Listen to Better Off Dead season one here, subscribe in iTunes, or 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).


Stay up to date with our upcoming events and special announcements by subscribing to The Wheeler Centre's mailing list.

Privacy Policy

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.