Whether it is through the words of the pope, his representatives the bishops and archbishops, or its surrogates in the medical profession, the Catholic Church remains the most determined force against voluntary assisted dying in Australia.
In 2020, The Vatican released its latest encyclical on assisted dying and euthanasia. They called it Samaritanus Bonus – the Good Samaritan – and this is what it had to say about people who seek assistance to die.
“Experience confirms that the pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love.”
Requests for assistance to die are ‘not to be understood as a true desire for euthanasia.’ In other words, the people making them are somehow misguided.
According to this narrative, people making such requests are likely to be demoralised; lonely; abandoned, feeling like a burden; or struggling to find meaning in – or even giving up on - their lives. And that, with the right kind of love and care, these things can be addressed.
In this episode, we hear from some of the most senior figures in Australian palliative care. We also hear from others who have a different understanding of such requests, and who believe that the people who make them can be both considered and rational.
Professor Michael Ashby Photo: Supplied
Palliative care clinician Molly Carlile AM: “It has to be about why are we doing this. Who is it for? If it's about us, we have to ask: how does our view on a whole lot of things influence our practice?” photo: Supplied
Professor Michael Ashby
“It is not the role of any healthcare team to suggest that its ministrations can give meaning, purpose and dignity to a dying person’s remaining life if that person feels that these are irretrievably lost... Palliative care is a model of care, not a moral crusade.”
Ron Fellows, Margaret Somerville, Patricia Fellows, Megan Best, Mark Coleridge, Jean Caliste, Jacqui Hicks, Nicole Robertson, Deb M, Katie Harley, Kristin Cornell, Peter Jones, Ron Poole, Fiona McClure, Phillip Parente, Peter Lange, Betty King, Michael Dooley, Anthony Fisher, Stephen Parnis, Michael Ashby, Natasha Michael, David Kissane, Malcolm Parker, Roger Hunt, Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Shayne Higson, Alex Broom, Kit Denton, Peter Abetz,
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: Simon Kindt, Aaron Gleeson, and Joe Lodge
Special thanks to our interviewees Michael Ashby, Roger Hunt, Malcolm Parker and Molly Carlile for their time for this episode.
Footage supplied courtesy of Seven Network. All rights reserved. ©
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.
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