Better Off Dead
Better Off Dead
May 5, 2021
#8 The Good Samaritan
Play • 44 min

The key word in Victoria’s voluntary assisted dying law is the first one: ‘voluntary’. By law, any doctor, nurse, or other health professional who conscientiously objects can choose not to participate in a person’s request for voluntary assisted dying.

But how does an institution balance its employees legal right to conscientiously object with its obligation to care for its patients?

Colin M, champion swimmer. “They were just playing in the waves. And he got dumped in one of those freak accidents and he knew straight away that he'd had a catastrophic injury.” -- Photo: Supplied

In this episode, we meet Colin, a former champion swimmer and  professor of philosophy who is dying and who has applied for the legal right to end his own life. Colin lives by the ancient Roman philosophy of Stoicism. This is what the Stoic Marcus Aurelius had to say about death: ‘Accept death in a cheerful spirit, as nothing but the dissolution of the elements from which each living thing is composed’. For a Stoic, it is good to “choose to die well while you can”.

Colin is living in a Catholic nursing home. They have a very different philosophy about death and dying. To a staunch Catholic, choosing to end your life early is to “to take the place of God in deciding the moment of death”.

What happens when these two ancient philosophies meet in one Melbourne nursing home?

And when does ‘conscientious objection’ become ‘conscientious obstruction’?

Sister Debra, niece Gabrielle, and nephew Elliot with Colin. “One of the most honourable people I think I've ever met.”-- Photo: Supplied

I don't understand how people can think that that's a good or an ethical thing to do to someone, like physically and emotionally to put people through that suffering”

Colin’s sister, Debra

Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: ““Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one” -- Photo: Shutterstock

For more

In this episode (in order of appearance):
Deb M, Andrea Bendrups, Elliot D, John Stanton, Mark Coleridge, Peter Lange


Better Off Dead 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
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: James Domeyko, Aaron Gleeson 

Special thanks to the family and medical carers of Colin M for their time for this episode.

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.

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


Download a transcript of this episode in PDF format.

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