Together in life and in death
LONDON (July 14, 2009): It was, said their family, a very civilised way to die. Sir Edward and Lady Downes, a shared lifetime of personal and professional triumphs behind them, held hands for their final moments together before climbing on to separate beds to drink the clear liquid containing a fatal dose of barbiturates. Within 10 minutes, watched by their weeping family, they were dead.
The decision of one of Britain's greatest conductors and his wife to end their own lives in a manner, time and place of their choosing has reignited the debate over assisted suicide in Britain.
A handout picture dated 1979, provided by the Birmingham
Post and Mail on 14 July 2009, shows British conductor Sir
Edward Downes at the Birmingham Town Hall for the first
concert in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's 1979
Yesterday, as their children were interviewed by Metropolitan Police officers over their role in facilitating their parents' death, the extraordinary finale to the life of Edward, 85, and Joan Downes, 74, began to emerge.
News of their suicide last Friday was released in a statement by their son Caractacus and daughter Boudicca.
It said: "After 54 happy years together, they (our parents) decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems. They died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the help of the Swiss organisation Dignitas in Zurich."
The reluctant choice of Britain's finest post-war conductor who worked his way up from humble beginnings to lead the world's greatest orchestras, a roll-call of achievements which included taking the baton for the first performance at the newly built Sydney Opera House - was made after his wife of 44 years was diagnosed with terminal secondary cancer in the liver and pancreas earlier this year.
In recent times she had become not only his constant companion, accompanying him to dress rehearsals at the beloved Royal Opera - where they met more than half a century ago when she was an aspiring young ballet dancer and he an emerging conductor - but also his full-time carer.
Sir Edward, although not terminally ill, had had to cope with deteriorating eyesight for many years.
By the end of his professional life, when he was well in to his eighties, he was forced to conduct only those pieces contained within his prodigious memory.
A recent decline in his general condition, following a hip replacement, and for a musician the desperate blow of losing his hearing, had made the prospect of life without Lady Joan untenable.
According to her British doctors, the couple had, at best, a few months left together, though Lady Joan might have only lived for a few more pain-racked weeks.
Medication worked intermittently and a delay could have meant she would have been too ill to travel, the family said.
Research on the internet led them to contact the controversial Dignitas clinic, where more than 117 Britons have gone to take advantage of Switzerland's liberal laws on assisted suicide.
"It was very calm and very civilised," explained Caractacus.
"It is a very good way to go and you are under control. When faced with a situation like that, having control over your end is a very important thing, and my parents were very keen on that."
He added: "So while it was shocking when I found out, it seemed a completely reasonable thing to do and we had no trouble supporting what they did. I don't understand why the legal position in this country doesn't allow it."
Son and daughter had persuaded their parents to allow Caractacus to accompany them from their home in Greenwich, south-east London, to Zurich last Tuesday.
Boudicca, 39, a UN worker based in Rome, met them there. Only a small group of close friends, one of whom is a solicitor, was privy to the decision.
"In the end, they were relieved we were there," said Downes, 41, an IT worker and part-time musician.
Sir Edward had remained active very late in life, still studying for a Russian degree to keep his brain "ticking over", but the ravages of old age were becoming intolerable.
"It was frustration upon frustration for him," explained his son.
In order to be allowed to proceed, Sir Edward and Lady Joan had to provide evidence of their conditions and persuade doctors that they were fully aware of and committed to taking their own lives.
"They both lived life to the full and considered themselves extremely lucky to have lived such rewarding lives both professionally and personally. Our parents had no religious beliefs and there will be no funeral," the couple's children said. - The Independent
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
sehidup dan semati
will i be able to meet someone who can really be called life partner? (but of course i dun what us to end up by having suicide)