Conductor Edward Downes and his wife Joan decided to end their lives on their own terms:
He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.
Downes – Sir Edward since he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 – and his wife ended their lives last week at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of clear liquid and died hand-in-hand, their two adult children by their side. He was 85 and she was 74.
Many people feel that suicide necessarily cheapens one’s life. In many cases, I don’t agree. I do think that the choice of when and how to die belongs to each person individually, as long as the decision was not made impulsively or under the influence.
If the day comes when I decide that I can’t bear the pain, or that I no longer find joy in my life, I would hope that I wouldn’t need to travel all the way to Switzerland because inter-meddlers think they know better than me about the meaning of my own life.
About the Author (Author Profile)Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.
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