UK: New Swiss Suicide Tourist Case – Double Suicide

I’ll say something that others are probably too polite to say:

Pro-euthanasia advocates in the UK have got to be very very grateful to the children of Sir Richard Downes and his wife Joan. Why? They went public with the story that they accompanied the couple to Switzerland for a double suicide – and chased the story of Jane Campbell’s “near death” experience with doctors out of the media spotlight.

Notably, Jane Campbell’s story was limited to coverage by the UK media. The story of Downes and his wife, though, is international news – as evidenced by coverage in the NY Times:

Attempting suicide has not been a criminal offense in Britain since 1961, but assisting others to kill themselves is. But since the Zurich clinic run by Dignitas was established in 1998 under Swiss laws that allow clinics to provide lethal drugs, British authorities have effectively turned a blind eye to Britons who go there to die.

None of the family members and friends who have accompanied the 117 people living in Britain who have traveled to the Zurich clinic for help in ending their lives have been charged with an offense. Legal experts said it was unlikely that that would change in the Downes case.

But British news reports about the Downeses’ suicides noted one factor that appeared to set the case apart from others involving the Dignitas clinic: Sir Edward appeared not to have been terminally ill. There have been at least three other cases similar to the Downeses’, in which a spouse who was not terminally ill chose to die with the other.

Note – the reporter has his facts hopelessly mangled here. There have been a significant number of people getting “assistance” to commit suicide in Switzerland. So there’s really nothing that “sets this case apart.”

Friend and colleague Gary Presley has posted his thoughts at the blog on his website and also at Seven Wheelchairs. This is a direct link to his post.


And I understand the reaction of euthanasia advocates. Downes’ choice takes the argument for assisted suicide to the ultimate, far past their dream that euthanasia be incorporated into the dynamic of medical treatment.

Read the rest here. –Stephen Drake

One thought on “UK: New Swiss Suicide Tourist Case – Double Suicide

  1. I want to post this before I am influenced by other opinions.
    I had a similar reaction when I read the story,(on the Guardian website where it had front/top/center for hours)to Stephen Drake. My thought was:perfect for the tilt towards assisted suicide – just when it seemed people were getting a broader perspective thanks to Jane Campbell’s testimony
    and the vote in the House of Lords.

    As I read the story, which hit the myths: can’t see, very debilitated, conductor wants “out”.
    The wife’s going along was harder
    to “sell” – only around 73 (if my memory is right), with MS and fearful she’d be in really bad shape, career problem… That’s a harder sell because of her age, and
    hopefully more people know about MS.

    Nothing about the possibility that the couple had misinformation.
    Nothing about society’s views about
    disability/disabilities:oh, how awful, why would anyone want to live old and infirm?

    At the same time, the Guardian online series about ageing, had a really titled, biased
    article on someone visiting/writing about a senior citizen home – title something like “waiting to die”. A few of the comments were great – like, why are you sensationalizing this and tales of relatives who lived at home. No mention that I remember of living at home with

    I used to like the Guardian more.
    Now I’ll read the links.

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