Thursday, 19 April 2012
Q is for Quality of Life
I know this is a strange one, and you wouldn't have assumed it was about writing. But books are about big ideas, and those ideas have to be heartfelt ones in order to sustain a writer's interest over many thousands of words and several drafts. Quality of life is the big idea at the heart of Borrowed Time.
We make choices all the time about quality of life. My cat's old, should I take her to vet and have her put down? OK, now she's limping, is it time? Thyroid problems, that means tablets every day, how about now, she hates the tablets? She has cancer, how about now?
My daughter was born with a disability, then acquired a secondary, terminal illness. I'm not suggesting we should have taken her to the vet to be put down, but certainly at the very end, I agonised over how much pain relief she was having, whether it was OK to sedate her into sleep to avoid the agony, whether it was all right to let her dehydrate (because she wouldn't drink) or whether we should take her to hospital (which she loathed and might have extended her life by a few days/weeks). I've also worked in places where end-of-life decisions are made all the time.
So in my novel, someones life is extended by artificial means, without their consent. She is essentially disabled, has to be very careful not to lose her tenuous hold on life. She will never finish her education, hold down a job, or have a child. Worse, she has only been saved to help other people. I realise on some level this is wish fulfilment, because I probably would want my daughter back on those terms, but would she? As I come up to what would have been her 28th birthday, I wonder if her disability and illness would have been acceptable to her, and I'm allowing my character to think about her quality of life.
What big idea is at the heart of your story?