Better Off Dead

Better Off Dead is a 17 episode podcast by Andrew Denton about the right to die.

Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia – because there is no law to help them.

Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead is available to stream at wheelercentre.com.

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The AgeDigital Edition: Denton’s back – and he’s dead serious

Three years after quitting television, Andrew Denton is back – with both a mission and a new medium. The 55-year-old media maverick has spent the past 12 months making a 17-episode podcast about the right to die.

‘‘ I wanted to inform the debate and I wanted to inflame the debate,’’ he says.

‘‘ I want politicians and doctors to stop sitting on their hands while Australians needlessly suffer.’’

His interest in the topic was sparked by the awful experience of watching his father, author and broadcaster Kit Denton, die slowly and painfully in 1997. In the series Better Off Dead he interviews a woman planning her own death who has since passed away; Tasmanian nurse Cathy Pryor, who was convicted over the assisted suicide of her cancer-ridden father but freed after 12 days in prison; and former Victorian director of public prosecutions John Coldrey, who in 2003 gave an 18-month suspended sentence to a man found guilty of assisting his wife’s suicide by asphyxiating her with a plastic bag.

Coldrey tells Denton it’s time to change the laws that many judges find difficult to apply .

‘‘ These cases don’t sit comfortably in a court setting,’’ Coldrey says. ‘‘ The person goes out into society labelled a murderer when their motive has been compassion and love.’’

Denton admits he might have been able to cover the topic in a more traditional manner but opted for a podcast because it represents ‘‘ the most interesting form of storytelling happening in the media’’ , even though – the surprise success of Serial notwithstanding – it is neither mainstream nor easy to monetise. So, was it a new lease on life for the man whose last foray into television with Randling left him a little scarred, and who sold his share of production company Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder in 2013? ‘‘ It was a new lease of death, actually .’’ Better Off Dead was, he says, made ‘‘ largely on my own dime and my own time’ ’ over a year, with just him and a producer on board. He visited Belgium, the Netherlands and the US state of Oregon to see how euthanasia laws worked in practice. But, perhaps surprisingly , the starting point for his quest was a conference of opponents to euthanasia. ‘‘ I used that as the road map for this journey,’’ he says. ‘‘ It was incredibly useful, because otherwise I wouldn’t have understood so fully what their arguments against it were.’’ Denton firmly believes that at the heart of all the arguments against the right to die is a deeply conservative , religious (primarily Catholic) morality. But, he adds, the arguments most typically used don’t stand up to much scrutiny.

So much of it, he says, comes down to ‘‘ that one line: ‘First of all it’s putting Granny out of her misery, and then it just becomes too easy to put her out of our misery’ . That’s the classic example of how it’s done.

‘‘ It’s a misstatement of how these laws work, but if you don’t think about it just sounds sinister.’’

In reality, he claims only one-third of applications for euthanasia in the Netherlands are approved – critics there complain the laws are too restrictive – while the checks and balances in place mean collusion to bump someone off for monetary gain (or any other nefarious reason) is extremely unlikely.

Denton has no idea what sort of impact his podcast series will have – ‘‘ I could just be farting into a thunderstorm’ ’ – but he’s clear about one thing. If he makes another podcast, it won’t be so heavy.

‘‘ It will be something far less taxing or complicated,’’ he says. ‘‘ Probably either ‘my favourite colour’ or ‘chocolate is yummy’ .’’

#17 Why Do I Have to Go Through Hell to Get to Heaven?

In #17, ex Prime Minister Bob Hawke, 86, voiced his opinion to call for voluntary euthanasia to be legalised.

I think it is absurd that euthanasia is not legal within this country.
It doesn’t meet any requirements of morality or good sense.

“I am more than happy for my name to be associated with a clear statement of belief that the time has come where we in Australia should have clear legislation on our books that makes euthanasia legal,” he said.

Bob Hawke has already discussed his end-of-life wishes with wife Blanche D’Alpuget.  Hawke said he would rather be able to make the decision now, while he is still mentally able, rather than when it is too late.

Hawke is part of the majority of Australians, 70 per cent of whom support the introduction of assisted dying laws – only 12 per cent of people polled were completely opposed, according to a 2012 poll.

#17 Why Do I Have to Go Through Hell to Get to Heaven?
An episode of Better Off Dead
Published on 13 Apr 2016

For help or information call Lifeline on 131 114 or SuicideLine on 1300 651 251.

Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead is available to stream at wheelercentre.com.

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