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British couple goes to Switzerland for assisted suicide

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It’s often hard to image living without the one you love. Sometimes in old age when one partner passes away, the other dies of a broken heart. British couple Edward and Joan Downes found a way to avoid living without each other: dying together.

According to the Associated Press, Edward spent his life conducting orchestras around the world as head of the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Opera House. Joan was a ballet dancer, choreographer and TV producer who has been battling liver and pancreatic cancer. They had been married 54 years.

Downes’s manager, Jonathan Groves, described the couple as inseparable. “Sir Edward would have survived her death, but he decided he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to go on living without her,” Groves said.

When Joan was told that she only had weeks to live, the Downeses began to think about their options. The decision: double assisted suicide.

Because assisted suicide and euthanasia are banned in Britain, the couple traveled to Switzerland to end their lives together. Switzerland welcomes any foreigners to travel there for assisted suicide. The company that the Downeses used is Dignitas.

Dignitas charges 10,000 Swiss francs, which is about $9,200 per person. The AP reported that the almost $10,000 a person charge covers all legal arrangements as well as provides the doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Last week, in Zurich, the two drank some clear liquid and died hand-in-hand. Their two adult children were by their side.

andrea @ July 16, 2009

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