There’s Angelina Jolie, Bill Clinton, Ben Stiller, Mel Books, Cate Blanchett, Richard Dawkins, Bob Hawke, Michael Parkinson … the list of celebrities, politicians, thought game-changers and the simply fascinating touches all corners of the globe and all walks of life.
One name that doesn’t seem to fit that list is Liz.
Liz is 48, a businesswoman and dying of terminal cancer. Denton has interviewed her as part of his 17 part podcast series produced in conjunction with The Wheeler Centre, Better Off Dead, that looks into the complex issue of assisted dying in Australia and asks why “good people are being forced to die bad deaths”.
“I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some great people in my career,” Denton half laughs.
“Liz is in my top ten. If life is water she was an Alka Seltzer.”
Watch Andrew Denton describe his stance on euthanasia below (post continues after video).
Liz is dying painfully and cruelly. When ‘every single door is closed behind her’ she wants to be able to save herself from unnecessary suffering. But no-one will help her die and she has to organise her death herself. It is complicated because she doesn’t want to die violently and she doesn’t want to risk any legal consequences for her 26-year-old son Callum or her brother. She researches the lethal and illegal drug Nembutal, buys it and spends six hours, on one of her last days, weighing it on her kitchen table and conducting tests for purity. She is forced to contemplate dying alone. She doesn’t want to die alone.
Liz is articulate and laughs and cries with Denton. She is pragmatic and protective of her family. Denton follows her over her last year as she walks him through her life, her pain and the possibilities and planning of how she will die.
In one of the many memorable and aching excerpts from the podcast Denton asks Liz “in a perfect world” how would her death be.
She says she would be in her bed surrounded by her family and she wouldn’t want to make to big a deal of it.
“I imagine holding Callum’s hand and thinking about his birth at my death,” she says her voice cracking. “I’d like it to be peaceful and without the anxiety of what is going to happen to these people that are with me now.”
Liz is one of the handful of personal stories Denton shares about the reality of suffering and dying. In the podcast series, that has been 12 months in the making. he also explores assisted dying laws in Belgium, The Netherlands and the U.S. state of Oregon. He talks to doctors, nurses, the elderly, policy makers. He gathers information and stories from Australia and around the world. He presents facts and findings meticulously like a scientific researcher. He talks to people with the heart of a man who has seen and heard too many stories of “good people dying bad deaths”.