Euthanasia – The Novel

Having decided to go ahead with the idea of writing a novel that takes euthanasia as its theme then some organisation is required. This is not quite like any book that I have written before. Everything that I have penned to date has been a work of fiction. They have each been constructed in a logical fashion. I have written several posts about my preferred working method when it comes to writing, but I will summarise it here just as a reminder.

First, I have the idea and I test it by writing a rough outline. I usually do not bother with dialogue and I do not define any character who I do not identify as major to the story. The aim is to get the original idea, and any associated ideas it gives rise to, on the page.

Second, this stage only appears if step one has been successful. I do not always attempt to finish the first draft. Usually, I move onto the second draft once I am convinced that the originating idea has some merit. It is at this point that I open a style sheet as well. Writing the second draft and populating the style sheet at the same time makes editing so much easier.

Third, I write the book, develop the plot and characters, edit it, and polish it as much as possible. Sounds easy, but it actually takes a lot of time and effort. 

This time I am going to have to work a little differently. The book is not going to be driven by the protagonist as much as would happen in a work of fiction. He, I am calling him Mr Robinson at the moment, has already made the decision to end his life through euthanasia. His last day involves a series of encounters in which the arguments for and against euthanasia are discussed. To do this I have to arrange the arguments in a logical order. I have done something like this previously. In Eugenica I ran an extraordinary International Congress of Eugenics alongside the main story of Grace and Tom’s adventures. I thought it worked quite well as a means of examining the subject of eugenics in some depth, and also showing how it descends into dysgenics, the negative form of the idea. I had to set the arguments out in an orderly fashion and then get one or more characters to discuss them, but not in a manner that was too boring.

Here are a few of the arguments that I am going to be covering in this book:

For:

  • Self-determination – human beings should have the right to be able to decide when and how they die
  • Dying with dignity and with control over their situation
  • Death is a private matter and the state should not interfere with the individual’s right to die
  • It is expensive to keep terminally ill people alive
  • Family and friends would be spared seeing someone they love suffer a drawn-out death
  • Animals are euthanised as an act of kindness

Against:

  • Voluntary euthanasia could be the first step on a ‘slippery slope’ that leads to involuntary euthanasia
  • Euthanasia would weaken society’s respect for the value of human life
  • Palliative care is available
  • It would lead to worse care for the terminally ill
  • It would put too much power in the hands of doctors and damage the trust between them and their patients
  • Some people may feel pressurised into euthanasia by family, friends, or doctors when it is not really what they want
  • It would undermine the commitment of doctors and nurses to save lives
  • It would discourage the search for new cures and treatments for the terminally ill
  • Some people unexpectedly recover
  • Some people may change their mind but not be able to communicate this

The list is not exhaustive. I may find other points to cover as the book develops. It is never a good idea to fence yourself in too tightly, it suffocates inspiration and originality. That said, having such a list also works very well as a guide. It also confirms that I have done some work on the subject.

I have already started the second draft. I have found that including anecdotes from my own life has really helped. I am not sure how my wife is going to feel about this, but I think doing so adds depth and believability to the protagonist. I do not want this book to be some academic exercise. The subject is serious and so is my approach, but I am a novelist, not an academic. This will not be a treatise on the subject of euthanasia but rather an exploration of the topic as I currently understand it. I know the beginning and I know the end. I know how I want to arrange each chapter. The challenge is to write a story that the reader wants to read all the way through even if they find the subject matter somewhat uncomfortable.

Edward G Robinson chooses euthanasia in the film, Soylent Green

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