Over My Dead Body - Discussion Points for Bookclubs

  • What are the main characteristics you would attribute to Elvira, Carole, Guy and Willow? How far do you think these account for the tensions within the family?
  • We hear a lot about Carole’s feelings and opinions. How accurate do you think her perceptions of a) herself, b) her husband and c) her daughter are? Did your opinion of Guy change by the end of the book?
  • Why do you think Carole is so obsessed by what happened to Sally? Are her fears about a) Elvira, b) the organs, and c) Willow justified? What was your response to the revelation?
  • The policeman, Lennox McRobert, has confidential information from the past. Was he justified in a) reassuring Carole, b) not sharing it with the Family Liaison Officer?
  • Carole takes steps to protect Elvira’s memory (an isolated grave, a simple headstone, withdrawing her book of poems). Does this behaviour tally with your picture of her? How does it square with her replying to the letter of thanks Sam sent?
  • In Chapter 18 Carole lists a number of reasons why she doesn’t want to donate Elvira’s organs. How far do you a) sympathise with her reservations, b) agree with her final decision, c) feel she was influenced by Oliver or the chaplain?
  • Has this book changed your personal opinions about organ donation? Are there any circumstances which would make you say no to a) receiving and b) donating an organ? Are there any organs or tissues you would personally not want used from a) yourself or b) your child?
  • Oliver asks: ‘What’s the point of deciding for yourself, carrying a card, being on the register and everything, if they don’t take any notice when you’re dead?’ How would you answer him? Of all those connected to Elvira, whose opinions about the use of her organs should carry most weight? Why?
  • Several people in this story are exercised by the ‘worthiness’ of potential recipients and their unhealthy lifestyles. The specialist nurses assure them that decisions are made on the basis of medical need, by impartial assessors and computers. What are your opinions on this? Does hearing the recipients’ stories influence your views about the use of Elvira and Madeline’s organs?
  • Would you support the use of organs from a) impoverished foreigners, b) executed prisoners?
  • Patty Ingram wanted to give her own kidney to her brother, Sam. He refused it. What do you think about live donation to a) a relative, b) to a stranger, and c) in a chain of patients and their relatives?
  • There is a shortage of organs available for transplantation. Far more people agree with organ donation than sign the donor register. Which of the steps to encourage participation listed in Chapter 34 did you find most persuasive? Can you think of any others?
  • Sometimes transplanted organs fail or are rejected. Sarah wonders if donor families should be told. Would you wish to know?
  • How appropriate do you think it is for a recipient to a) want to name a baby after the donor, b) send before-and-after photos of himself to the donor’s family, c) try to discover the identity of the donor, and d) contact the donor’s family?
  • What do you think about the role letters play in this book? What characteristics would you suggest make up the ideal letter from recipient to donor family?