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No wonder people accused me of simply jumping on the bandwagon when I published my third book, Die Erlöser AG (The Redeemer Company), which explicitly deals with different forms of euthansia. But it isn't true. It is more that I felt - after all my personal experience of the issue - that I had to approach the topic in a literary way. This doesn't mean that I don't have a strong opinion about the issue. Indeed, I have had and still have concerns, even moral concerns. When you have concerns and opinions you are seen as suspicious, especially as a young author. My book is set in the near future, in Berlin. The city's infrastructure has collapsed and paragraph 216 of the German Civil Code has been abolished: Tötung auf Verlangen (killing on demand) is legal. A doctor and a journalist set up an agency that looks after ill people at the end of their lives - to help them die or to kill them, depending on how you see it.

How could you? The author makes the elderly look foolish and creates a spectacle out of the issue. This is what some of the critics said. And what was already evident after my first two books became even clearer: if you yourself haven't experienced what it's like to see a poor incontinent human being tied to a bed, you won't have much understanding of the novel's sometimes very explicit pages. Those who do know what I am writing about usually have a very positive reaction to it.

I said earlier that I was ashamed of my youthful - and perhaps not very well thought out - take on the issue. I need to explain myself now. Years after my civilian service, I met a man at one of my readings. He had worked in a hospice for ten years. In contrast to my patients, his patients were very well looked after, from palliative medicine to counselling: they were assured that they would not be alone. He told the audience that in all those years he had never heard his patients ask for euthanasia. I was shocked. Was the wish for euthanasia only an indication of bad care, of a lack of medical and psychological attention? It would be an oversimplification to claim that all those years ago I was in favour of euthanasia and that now I am against it. If you choose one of the two options, you show only that you haven't dealt with the subject. After more than 70 readings and round-table discussions about my book, it became clear to me that the more serious a discussion is, the more peacefully it develops. The fewer ideological embellishments each side attributes to their alleged opponent, the more understanding they can have for each other.

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