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?
‘Ruth’s’ daughter ‘Jane’
‘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.
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. ©
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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