Wednesday, July 15, 2009


LONDON (AP) — British maestro Edward Downes, who conducted the BBC Philharmonic and the Royal Opera but struggled in recent years as his hearing and sight failed, has died with his wife at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland. He was 85 and she was 74. The couple's children said Tuesday that the couple died "peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing" on Friday at a Zurich clinic run by the group Dignitas. "After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems," said a statement from the couple's son and daughter.

Born in 1924 in Birmingham, Edward Downes - who became Sir Edward when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 - studied at Birmingham University, the Royal College of Music and under German conductor Hermann Scherchen. Throughout his life he retained close ties to the Royal Opera, conducting 49 different operas there over more than 50 years. He also had a decades-long association with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, where he became principal conductor and later conductor emeritus. In the 1970s he became music director of the Australian Opera, conducting the first performance at the Sydney Opera House in 1973. He also worked with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and ensembles around the world.

The deaths are the latest in a series of high-profile cases that have spurred calls for a legal change in Britain, where assisted suicide and euthanasia are banned. Despite the law, British courts have been reluctant in recent years to convict people who help loved ones travel to clinics abroad to end their lives. London's Metropolitan Police force said it had been notified of the deaths, and was investigating. The couple is survived by their children, who said their parents "both lived life to the full and considered themselves to be extremely lucky to have lived such rewarding lives, both professionally and personally." The family said there would be no funeral.

na hanyate hanyamane sarire
He (the soul) is not slain when the body is slain

Bhagavad-gita – Chapter 2, verse 20
Just like the philosophy voidism, or suicidism. I am feeling some pain in my body. So if I think that let me commit suicide, then the pain will go away automatically. That is void philosophy. The killing one-self: atma ha. But because they have no understanding that killing this body does not mean killing yourself. That is their ignorance. In the Bhagavad-gita it is clearly said, na hanyate hanyamane sarire. So these rascal think if I suicide, if I commit suicide, and just have a knife on my throat, then all my pains and pleasures are finished. No, that is not. ... He will be put into more pains and pleasure.
Srila A.C. BV Swami Prabhupada:
"Class on The Nectar or Devotion - Bombay, January 10, 1973"

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