McEwan speaks out on assisted dying

McEwan speaks out on assisted dying

Ian McEwan, whose forthcoming novel The Children Act (Jonathan Cape) will look at the dilemma of how and when people, and in particular children, can die, has again spoken out in favour of allowing terminally ill people to take their own lives.

Speaking at the Charleston Festival in East Sussex on Saturday (17th May), the Sunday Times reported the author saying: “What is ridiculous is the law allows people to starve to death, but when somebody is suffering extreme pain they cannot get the nurse to help them die. People who want to die should be allowed to die. The good thing is that in common law, it is now moving.”

The Children Act, out on 4th September, centres on a female High Court judge called to preside over legal case involving two parents who are refusing medical treatment for their sick son due to their religious beliefs.

McEwan, who said he was a member of the Dignity in Dying campaign which wants terminally ill adults to have the right to an assisted death, said that religion did “not help in compassionate judgments over matters of life and death”, and revealed he used real-life cases in the book but had to “disguise them and fictionalise them, but as issues they have all happened”.

He has previously spoken out over an overhaul of the laws on assisted suicide.

At Charleston, the author also spoke about an early version of Atonement (Vintage), the manuscript for which has just been sold as part of his personal archive to the Harry Ransom Centre in Texas.

McEwan said: "The book began as a short story set two or three centuries in the future. I just had this idea of using advanced technology to take people back to the country houses of the 18th century. I had this image of a girl putting flowers in a vase."

“I began to write the story but after a few chapters it was not working out. But I had this idea still of an English girl and some flowers.”