Edward and Joan Downes Commit Assisted Suicide at Dignitas Clinic
Edward Downes and his wife Joan have both ended their lives by committing assisted suicide at the Dignitas assisted suicide Clinic in Switzerland.
Their children made a statement today about how their mother and father, had help ending their lives at the clinic. Edward Downes had a long and successful career with the BBC Philharmoic Orchestra and the Royal Opera House, but when he died he was 85, almost blind and almost deaf. His wife Joan, a former ballet dancer, was 74 and terminally ill, but it is not known what she was afflicted with. Downe's agent Johathan Groves had this to say about the couple:
"After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems," said the statement.
"They died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing, with the help of the Swiss organization Dignitas, in Zurich," it said, adding that they died on Friday.
"They both lived life to the full and considered themselves to be 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 Metropolitan Police are investigating their deaths because under British law, assisting suicide is a crime and can carry a sentence of 14 years, however the Downes were not in Britain at the time, and since 1992, dozens of British citizens have gone to the Dignitas Clinic to end their lives, as suicide is legal there.
The Dignitas Clinic describes themselves as a assisted suicide group that help those suffering with terminal illness to die with qualified doctors and nurses.
Under Swiss law, a person who participates in an assisted suicide can only be prosecuted for the death if they are motivated by self-interest, therefore, all doctors and nurses at the clinic must remain neutral towards their patients and have to have nothing to gain from the death of their patients.
This is done in the following manner: the person who wishes to die meets several Dignitas personnel, in addition to an independent doctor, for a private consultation. The independent doctor assesses the evidence provided by the patient and is met on two separate occasions, with a time gap between each of the consultations. Legally admissible proof that the person wishes to die is also created, i.e. a signed affidavit, countersigned by independent witnesses. In cases where a person is physically unable to sign a document, a short video film of the person is made in which they are asked to confirm their identity, that they wish to die, and that their decision is made of their own free will, without any form of coercion. Such evidence of informed consent is entirely private and is not intended to ever be made public. The evidence is created and stored purely for use in any possible future legal dispute regarding the person who wishes to die, e.g. allegations that someone was forced to commit suicide. Finally, a few minutes before the lethal overdose is provided, the person is once again reminded that taking the overdose will surely kill them.
The patient must confirm several times during the process that they do in fact, wish to end their life and they are aware of the consequences.