IT’S the year 2045 and you’re living in a country where you know that your life will end by law at the age of ninety.

The country is England where a majority of people had voted for this change a few years previously. They now embrace and accept it and spend their last weeks of life revisiting old haunts and celebrating with friends and family. A multi-million pound ‘Deathday’ industry has sprung up to help them.

But lurking in the background is the sinister National Age Regulation Authority which enforces the law and seeks out people who want to evade the rules. Some people try to escape abroad, particularly to Scotland, which by then is independent, and where no such law exists. Meanwhile, the politicians argue about reform of the law and the Monarchy gets drawn into an increasingly fractious debate.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Colin's debut novel, Deathday Colin's debut novel, Deathday (Image: Submitted)

This scenario is one I have constructed for my first novel, Deathday, which is published in April. I should stress that I am not advocating compulsory euthanasia at ninety or indeed at any age. This is simply a literary device for a work of fiction which I hope will get people thinking about how we should deal with our later years, both as individuals and as a society.

However, a number of the factors which play into the novel’s fictional world are already happening for real - a crisis in the social care system, economic downturns, intergenerational conflict and a growing older population increasingly afflicted by dementia and other conditions for which there are as yet no cures.

I was inspired to write this book by witnessing at first hand the end of life experiences of close family members and also people I have got to know while volunteering with a food delivery and befriending charity. There’s nothing unusual about my experiences and most of us will have encountered similar examples. What struck me most was just how people’s attitudes to their later years differed greatly. Often people whose circumstances might seem pretty desperate were incredibly cheerful and retaining a zest for life despite multiple health issues, poor material circumstances and extreme loneliness. Equally, others who might seem to have a better quality of life in old age were unreservedly gloomy and wishing to bring their lives to a conclusion.

The novel is the product of my reflections on these experiences and I suppose it has made me think more about how we balance quality of life and length of life. Much of the history of humanity has been about increasing our control over our lives. Up to a point, we control birth, illness, various aspects of material deprivation and indeed many other things. But death remains largely outside our control even though, through medicine, we can in part sometimes mitigate the physical pain which often accompanies it.

So maybe we need to establish more control over death. I appreciate that many people, perhaps particularly people of faith, will recoil against this and argue that the Lord giveth and it is for the Lord to take away. But writing this book and the experiences which led to it have made me feel that there is an argument to be made for voluntary euthanasia providing proper enforceable safeguards are in place to protect the vulnerable. Interestingly, every few months you read about somewhere in the world where voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide have been made legal.

When I was starting to write the book a few years ago, I had a conversation with a respected academic who had studied end of life care and palliative medicine. I always remember him saying to me that he had spent his working life talking to dying people. But he told me that the more he looked at death, the more he found life.

At the end of the day, my book is just a story which I hope people will enjoy. The title and the subject matter might sound grim but I believe there is plenty in it which reminds us why we should cherish and celebrate life even at its conclusion.

* Colin Philpott was Director of the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford from 2004 to 2012 and Chief Executive of Bradford Breakthrough from 2012 to 2015.

* Deathday is published by Fisher King Publishing on April 23 but is now available to pre-order by visiting