At the heart of the political debate around voluntary assisted dying lies palliative care. On one side sits the argument that it can effectively deal with all pain and suffering, and that it should be made available to everyone before Assisted Dying is made legal.
On the other, a recognition that – for all its benefits – palliative care cannot help everyone, and that those beyond its help should not be left to suffer, or – as some do – take their own lives.
But beyond the political debate, within palliative care lies a much deeper argument. One about values.
Palliative care’s background is as a provider of Christian care; more than half of Australia’s palliative care is supplied by The Catholic Church. According to The Vatican, assisting someone to die is ‘intrinsically evil.’
By papal decree, any request by a person for help to end their life is not to be taken as genuine, but is to be understood instead as ‘an anguished plea for help and love.’
But some palliative care clinicians have a different set of values. They see that their primary purpose is to act in response to what their patient wants and needs.
It’s called person-centred care, a way of practising medicine that has been thrown into the sharpest focus imaginable by a law allowing doctors to help their patients to die.
Palliative care clinician, and death and dying expert Molly Carlile AM. Photo: supplied
Palliative care clinician, Molly Carlile AM
‘The bottom line for me is, you can choose whether you want to stop having chemo or anything else that you consider as futile treatment. And we are the defenders of those people. So how can we say, in the same breath, “Yes, you can make your choices, so long as it's not voluntary assisted dying?”’
Dr Greg Mewett. ‘It's not for me to say how much someone's suffering and whether we can do more. It should be up to the individual.’ Photo: Juliet Lamont
In order of appearance
Jaala Pulford, Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Michael Ashby, Roger Hunt, Andrew Sloane, Anthony Fisher, Megan Best, John Flader, Tim Harris, Natasha Michael, Stephen Parnis, Jane Morris, Clive Deverall, Lisa Hogg, Alex Broom, Jan Kelly
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: Jon Murphy, Brendan John Warner, Simon Kindt, Aaron Gleeson
Special thanks to our interviewees Molly Carlile, Greg Mewett, Michael Ashby and Roger Hunt 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.
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