In 2017, when 88-year-old Susie Kennaway asked her son Guy to help her die, little did he know that the book which he decided to write instead would become a manual dealing with the implications of euthanasia.
With an older and infirm husband, Susie wanted to avoid sliding into infantilised catatonia. In Guy’s words, she is a "very powerful woman who takes her own path in life and woe betide anyone who gets in her way".
Though Guy decided to take notes immediately after her mother's demand, he never felt that "any of what I write or say or do has much effect on her".
"But when she discovered that I was writing this book I am pleased to say that after her initial fury, she wanted to contribute to the project and I think the whole thing gave her a new lease of life. Well, she's not dead yet! By a long chalk," Guy told PTI.
Though many elderly people, like Susie, express their wish to die in a manner and time of their choosing, the church, the law, the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry have been opposing this.
During their conversations about when and how to make Susie’s final exit, some of the difficulties of their fractious relationship mellowed and some even melted, as the reality of what they were planning brought Guy and his mother together.
Guy says he had to write “Time to Go”. It was a “passion project, which I hope makes people laugh a lot and changes the world a little”.
It deals with the practical, moral and emotional implications of euthanasia, and describes the ups and downs of a mother-son relationship near the end, he says.
When he started writing the book, published by Bloomsbury, Guy never thought about euthanasia or assisted dying.
"I thought it was an activity for cranks, but as I listened to my mother, and looked into the horrors of late geriatric medicine, and learnt how humans are kept alive particularly in Europe long past the point at which they have stopped enjoying living, I saw that assisted dying is an issue we need to face and to discuss and start coming up with some good solutions to," he says.
When Susie came to know about the book, she was not happy the way her son described her.
"I had been merrily writing about her and my life with her, assuming she would be dead and buried before the book appeared. But she changed the schedule and is very much alive and very much on the war path," he says.
Asked if the book changed his mother's views on assisted dying, Guy says, "I think she is a pretty strong advocate for the right to die as we choose. She believes as I do that our bodies belong to us, and not the state. We should determine what happens at the end of our lives, not politicians, preachers or doctors."