UK conductor and wife end lives at Swiss clinic

Tue Jul 14, 2009 8:17am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Renowned British conductor Edward Downes and his wife Joan have ended their lives at the Dignitas assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, their children said in a statement on Tuesday.

Downes, who had a long and distinguished career at the Royal Opera House and with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra, was 85 when he died and "almost blind and increasingly deaf," according to his son Caractacus and daughter Boudicca.

His wife Joan, a former ballet dancer and later personal assistant to Downes, was 74 and terminally ill, according to Downes's agent Jonathan Groves. He did not comment on reports she had been suffering from cancer.

"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 in London said they were investigating the deaths of Downes and his wife.   Continued...

<p>A road sign marks the Ifangstrasse in front of the commercial centre in the town of Schwerzenbach north of Zurich December 4, 2007. The building locates the controversial Swiss right-to-die group Dignitas, according to local media reports. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>