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Edward Downes
Edward Downes (

The former conductor of the BBC Philharmonic and Netherlands Radio Orchestra has died at age 85.

Sir Edward Thomas Downes, CBE and his wife Joan, who was terminally ill, traveled to Switzerland where, according to a statement released by the conductor’s family, they "died peacefully, and under circumstances of their own choosing."

The arrangements were made though the Swiss assisted suicide group Dignitas.

Unlike his wife, Sir Downes was not terminally ill, but his daughter described him as "almost blind and increasingly deaf."

Friends of the conductor said that they weren’t surprised by his action. According to BBC Philharmonic general manager Richard Wigley, "Ted was completely rational, so I can well imagine him saying, ‘It’s been great, so let’s end our lives together.’"

Downes had also served as associate music director of the Royal Opera and as music director of the Australian Opera. He was knighted in 1991.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, but not in Britain. The deaths are being investigated by Greenwich CID. In the cases of 115 other British citizens who have traveled to Switzerland to die in a similar manner, no friends or family members who accompanied or collaborated with them have been prosecuted. However, some UK officials have expressed concern over the fact that Downes was not himself terminally ill.

Further reading:

Conductor Dies in Assisted Suicide at BBC

With Help, Conductor and Wife Ended Lives at New York Times (registration may be required)

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One Response to “Conductor Edward Downes, 1924-2009”

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