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Back in Germany, I looked for distractions. I drove around, did a few internships with radio stations and newspapers and went to university. My patients were still on my mind. My memories of them didn't become less clear or colourful. On the contrary, they became clearer. I remembered very well a woman in her sixties who cried for days. Her dementia wasn't advanced enough to make her calm (if that's possible), nor weak enough to make her aware of her condition. I remembered the swollen face of the former alcoholic. I remembered the 30-year-old man whose brain was damaged in a traffic accident. I remembered the woman with the tube down her nose. I don't want any more. Help me. I didn't just remember them, I actually saw them in front of my eyes. I saw their faces and their eyes. I knew all the details of their illnesses, all of their little preferences and quirks. I went and saw a psychotherapist who told me that as soon as these memories came back I was to move my eyes quickly from left to right. This was supposed to deconstruct my experiences. First my eyes hurt and then my head. Nothing else happened. I discovered the power of a bottle of beer to soothe my memories.

A year after my service ended, these ghosts which my work and thoughts had inspired became so overpowering that I began to write down the stories. This was not a belated diary, but a literary endeavour, right from the beginning. But it was very close to me and my experiences: a young man doing his civilian service reports on his experiences in a nursing home. Contrary to my expectations, the book appeared, published by Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. After some drastically disruptive events in my own family, I wrote another book. Einmal noch Marseille (Marseilles One Last Time) is the farewell-story of a small family, in which a father and his son accompany their wife and mother to the institution where she then dies. The ending remains unclear: just how did this character meet her death? Did somebody help her to die or did she endure to the end?

At the same time, a public debate on the right to die and euthanasia sprang up in the German - and other - media. The debate persists to this day and resembles a religious war. Terri Schiavo, who had been in a persistent vegetative state for some time, gets her stomach-tube removed, and then dies of thrist. Homicide or euthanasia? Or something in between? In the film Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), Alejandro Amen-ábar touchingly documents an euthanasia and opens the debate for a larger audience. The German painter Jörg Immendorff falls ill with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis at the age of 51, and is soon unable to hold a brush. A whole nation follows his fate and discusses humane ways of dying. Chantal Sébire, 53, asks the French president in an open letter to help her to obtain a drug that will help her to die-she cannot take morphine, and her face is disfigured by cancer. The English rugby player Daniel James, 23, travels to Switzerland to end his life, assisted by an euthenasia group with questionable motives and the cynical name "Dignitas". Sky Real Lives broadcasts a documentary about Craig Ewert, 59, in which you see Ewert (also in Switzerland) drink a deadly cocktail and die. Eluana Englaro, 38, who has been in a coma for 17 years after a car accident, dies after an Italian clinic removes life-support at her father's request.

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