British Couple Flee to Swiss Suicide Clinic, Die Together Holding Hands

July 15, 2009

(ChattahBox)—An aging British conductor and his terminally ill wife, decided to end their lives together in each other’s arms, after a happy marriage that lasted for more than half a century. Since assisted suicide is illegal in Britain, the couple flew to Switzerland to a suicide clinic, accompanied by their children and downed a lethal cocktail of barbiturates.

The assisted suicide of a prominent couple has shined the spotlight on the controversial issue, with renewed calls to reform the suicide laws in Britain. Sir Edward Downes, 85 and his wife Joan, 74, decided that they would rather take the journey to the great unknown together. Joan was at the end stages of terminal cancer and didn’t have long to live.

Their children, Caractacus Downes, the couple’s 41-year-old son and daughter, 39-year-old Boudicca, noted that their father was not terminally ill, but that he was almost blind and suffered from increasing deafness in his later years.

Sir Edward was considered one of Britain’s most renowned orchestra conductors. He served as the conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra from 1980 to 1991 and worked at London’s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.

The couple’s children described their deaths as peaceful. They each drank glasses of a clear liquid, quickly falling asleep and died together within 10 minutes, holding hands. The couple’s children supported their parents’ decision to end their lives. “It is a very civilized way to end your life…” said the couple’s son.

The act of suicide and assisting others with suicide is a criminal act in Britain, but authorities have not pressed charges against family members who accompanied 117 Britons to the Zurich suicide clinic, since it opened its doors in 1998.

Despite, the growing numbers of its citizens flocking to the Switzerland suicide clinic, British lawmakers and the British Medical Association continue to resist changing their laws and policies prohibiting assisted suicide.

British law enforcement officials and lawmakers may decline to prosecute those involved in assisted suicide abroad, but they are not prepared to legally condone it.

Assisted suicide in the United States is specifically outlawed in over thirty states, with other states relying on common law to criminalize the practice. Only the states of Oregon and Washington currently allow assisted suicides under certain conditions.


Photo Source: SWNS


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