The XX Factor

Shared Suicide is Selfish

While I agree with Nina that the gesture of dying along with his terminally ill wife was insanely romantic , in my book, Sir Edward Downes was also insane. The expensive (Dignitas, the Zurich clinic that administered the deadly barbiturate cocktail charges about $6,570 each) and dramatic assisted suicide pact of the distinguished British orchestra conductor and his wife strikes me as, sorry to say, overkill.

My husband and I both work at home, and there are entire days we speak to nobody but each other. After reading the story this morning of the Downes’ decision to die together, I told him that, though I love him dearly, he needn’t come with me when I cross into eternity. “Actually,” I joked, “I’ll need the quiet.”

In truth, I think it would be unusually cruel to our children to lose both parents on the same day. As Kerry points out, death is our universal prognosis , but each in our own time. Until then, when we lose a loved one, we are obligated to mourn, keep our dear ones in our hearts and memories, and soldier on. The Downes’ son, Caractacus , and daughter, Boudicca , accompanied the older pair to their Swiss death beds, and though both were named for legendary warriors, presumably the two feel a deep human loss for their parents. I understand the shared devotion of the elderly couple, happily married for 54 years. But no matter how deep our love for one another, allegiance must be to the living.

Photograph of doctor by Getty Images.