Books, Films and Podcasts
On this page we share a range of resources that may be of interest for you in connection with end-of-life choices. Whether factual to fictional, we hope among them you will find something that resonates for you.
We have included a few links for the books. For films, check your library for a DVD copy or search your streaming services.
A remarkably nuanced, empathetic, and well-crafted work of journalism, [The Inevitable] explores what might be called the right-to-die underground, a world of people who wonder why a medical system that can do so much to try to extend their lives can do so little to help them end those lives in a peaceful and painless way.”–Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker
More states and countries are passing right-to-die laws that allow the sick and suffering to end their lives at pre-planned moments, with the help of physicians. But even where these laws exist, they leave many people behind. The Inevitable moves beyond margins of the law to the people who are meticulously planning their final hours–far from medical offices, legislative chambers, hospital ethics committees, and polite conversation. It also shines a light on the people who help them: loved ones and, sometimes, clandestine groups on the Internet that together form the “euthanasia underground.”
Katie Engelhart, a veteran journalist, focuses on six people representing different aspects of the right to die debate. Two are doctors: a California physician who runs a boutique assisted death clinic and has written more lethal prescriptions than anyone else in the U.S.; an Australian named Philip Nitschke who lost his medical license for teaching people how to end their lives painlessly and peacefully at “DIY Death” workshops. The other four chapters belong to people who said they wanted to die because they were suffering unbearably–of old age, chronic illness, dementia, and mental anguish–and saw suicide as their only option.
Spanning North America, Europe, and Australia, The Inevitable offers a deeply reported and fearless look at a morally tangled subject. It introduces readers to ordinary people who are fighting to find dignity and authenticity in the final hours of their lives.
Available from most bookstores, including:
Her powerful and beautifully written book is a clear-eyed account of the tangle of her feelings, her reflections on her life, her memories of the lives and deaths of her parents. She tells us why it was important to her to have the ability to choose the circumstances of her death.
Dying: A Memoir is a breathtaking book about vulnerability and strength, courage and humility, anger and acceptance. It is a deeply affecting meditation on dying, but it is also a funny and wise tribute to life.
Cory Taylor was born in Queensland in 1955. She was an award-winning novelist and screenwriter who also published short fiction and children’s books. Her first novel, Me and Mr Booker, won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Pacific Region) in 2012 and her second novel, My Beautiful Enemy, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2014. She died on 5 July 2016, a couple of months after Dying: A Memoir was published.
Available from most bookstores, including:
Time to Die is essential reading for anyone following the Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) debate in Australia. It brings readers up-to-date with the state of the VAD debate in Australia, with particular focus on the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into End-oflifeChoices and the subsequent draft bill to legislate assisted dying.
As in his previous book, A Good Death (2008), Dr Syme draws on his many years counselling dying patients. In some cases, as he has stated on national television, he personally enabled people to die at the time and place of their own choosing.
Time to Die explores the notion of dignity in some detail,and discusses what we mean by ‘existential suffering’. Dr Syme makes a persuasive case that any legislative framework for assisted dying in Australia should cover not only the terminally ill, but also those who are suffering from what he calls ‘advanced incurable illnesses’, such as Motor Neuron Disease. He argues for this in a compelling chapter, which analyses the notion of suffering, with reference to religiously-inspired ideals.
Time to Die by Dr Rodney Syme can be purchased directly from leading online bookstores.
As she was dying of cancer in 2015, 90-year-old Eileen Dawe kept a diary. Despite her clearly stated wish to die she was forced to endure 17 painful weeks until the disease finally took her. Hoping to hasten nature’s course, she began to starve herself to death.
In her diary she wrote, ‘My country’s laws decree “Death by a thousand cuts for me”.’
Eileen’s is one of 72 testimonies in this book that describe with horrifying clarity the damage being done across Australia in the absence of a law for voluntary assisted dying. Written by sons, daughters, husbands, wives, partners, and friends, as well as the dying themselves, they detail trauma and suffering on a staggering scale.
Alternatively, you can order a copy from Go Gentle Australia’s web shop for $20 plus postage or you can download the Kindle/eBook reader version for $15. All proceeds from their web shop will be used to help fund their organisation.
The PDF is available for free from the web shop.
Please note: The contents of The Damage Done are explicit and emotionally powerful. They may be challenging and disturbing, particularly to readers dealing with grief after the death of a loved one. We advise those readers to consider whether they should seek support or even delay reading the testimonies contained in this book. If this upsets you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or seek additional support.
Rodney Syme’s candid and controversial account of the terminally ill people who he has assisted to end their lives.
A Good Death is a candid and provocative account of the experiences of many terminally ill people Dr Rodney Syme has assisted to end their lives. Over the past thirty years Syme has challenged the law on voluntary euthanasia—at first clandestinely and now publicly—risking prosecution in doing so. He again risks prosecution for writing this book.
A Good Death is a moving journey with those who came to Syme for help, and a meditation on what it means in our culture to confront death. It is also a doctor’s personal story about the moral dilemmas and ethical choices he faces working within the grey areas of the law.
In this important book, Rodney Syme argues for the end of the unofficial ‘conspiracy’ of silence within the medical profession and the decriminalisation of voluntary euthanasia in Australia. Through Syme’s determination to tell the stories of those who he has assisted to die with dignity, A Good Death also draws wider lessons of value for those who find themselves in a similar situation.
Available from most bookstores, including:
Laura Henkel is eccentric, outspoken, feisty and 90 years old. She has decided she wants to end her life on her own terms, and she asks her daughter Cathy and granddaughter Sam, both filmmakers, to make a film about it.Laura Henkel is eccentric, outspoken, feisty and 90 years old. She has decided she wants to end her life on her own terms, and she asks her daughter Cathy and granddaughter Sam, both filmmakers, to make a film about it.Laura Henkel is eccentric, outspoken, feisty and 90 years old. She has decided she wants to end her life on her own terms, and she asks her daughter Cathy and granddaughter Sam, both filmmakers, to make a film about it.
Find out more on Laura’s Choice website
Watch Laura’s Choice in 2 x 1 hour episodes on ABC iView
Life, death and the law – A documentary about assisted dying in Australia
Peter Short, the charismatic CEO of a major Australian company, learns that he has only months to live after he is diagnosed with terminal oesophageal cancer. Not wanting to face a painful death, Peter decides to source the lethal drug Nembutal, giving him the option to end his own life peacefully. With the help of a rogue doctor who supplies the drug to suffering patients, Peter sets out to have voluntary euthanasia legalised in Australia.
In addition to Peter’s journey, Fade to Black also provides a history and background to the issue of assisted dying, including the passing and subsequent reversal of VAD in the Northern Territory, as well as the legislation that exists in other countries. The movie features interviews with key players in the Australian debate, including Dr Rodney Syme, Andrew Denton and Dr Philip Nitschke, as well as politicians for change, Dr Richard Di Natale and Fiona Patten.
For more information about the film and viewing/purchasing options, visit the Fade to Black website.
Rex is a cab driver who has never left the mining town of Broken Hill in his life. When he discovers he doesn’t have long to live, he decides to drive through the heart of the country to Darwin, where he’s heard he will be able to die on his own terms.
Michael Caton stars as the terminally ill cab driver whose shocking diagnosis makes him seize the day – and the car keys. He sets off on an epic road trip from Broken Hill to Darwin, to take charge of his own destiny.
The movie is partly based on the story of Max Bell, a terminally ill cab driver who made the same drive as depicted in the film in the early nineties, hoping to take advantage of the Northern Territory’s voluntary euthanasia laws.
This is a film about a film. Fatal Fraud is a case study about techniques used by opponents against evidence-based public policy initiatives. In this film, Andrew Denton explains with the help of leading experts how emotional manipulation, fear, framing and omission are deployed to sow Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in the minds of legislators and the public. https://www.gogentleaustralia.org.au/fatal_fraud
Better Off Dead is a series of podcasts from Andrew Denton and the Wheeler Centre.
There were two seasons recorded, with a hiatus of 5 years between them.
You can listen to to all the podcasts on the Wheeler Centre website.
SEASON 1 (6 November 2015 – 13 April 2016)
Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia.
SEASON 2 (1 March 2021 – 27 May 2021)
Andrew Denton investigates the stories behind Victoria’s landmark Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) law: Who seeks to use it, and why? Who are the doctors stepping forward to help them? And how does the church continue to resist a law it describes as ‘evil’? Co-produced by Go Gentle Australia and the Wheeler Centre, season two of Better Off Dead looks at what happened in Victoria after the legislation came into effect in June 2019.