Stephen Amsterdam is a writer and a palliative care nurse and he has used his experience in this novel on euthanasia.
Evan, the protagonist works in a hospital with a program around Measure 961, which allows for assisted death after certain protocols are followed. The book begins with his first assist where he is control. His family background has made him a supporter of the process. His mother has Parkinson’s disease, and his father’s death he doesn’t disclose as probable suicide.
He is exposed to the many different situations that can occur, with all the possible complications, showing the many grey areas. The requirements of Measure 961 seem to be restrictive, ‘mindful of the wellbeing of every participant, including that of the assistant’. But then he sees what is happening with those working outside of the law.
In his personal life he turns to Lon and Simon, who form a ‘throuple’, trying to work out what their relationship means to each of them.
He struggles to distance himself from the clients and their families and friends, becoming involved, feeling too much.
But when Viv, his mother has a relapse and is moved into care she calls it ‘Assisted living? Everyone helping and watching and stopping by to catch your next dribble. My nightmare. Assisted dying is what it is’. Can he give her the out she is after, or is it too close to home?
Do individuals have the right to say ‘enough’? Who gets to choose? Who needs to sign off on it? What protocols are appropriate? What are the boundaries? Who does the deed? This book asks all the questions without imposing answers but simply getting us to reflect on this difficult question, and showing that there is no easy way out.