Would you rather die than lose your partner ?

coupleConductor Sir Edward Downes and his wife Joan had been together 54 years when they decided to end their lives together.

He was 85 and losing his sight and hearing.

 She was 74 and terminally ill. They died – that is, committed suicide –  at Dignitas, in Switzerland.

_46053972_downes_wife226The sad case has re-opened the debate about assisted suicide- and a debate we’ve had on WHYS many times.

It’s got many of you e-mailing the BBC saying how sad the story has made you feel,  -but also saying you can understand their position (regardless of how you feel about helping someone to die ).

 Here’s a review of how the papers covered the story in Britain – one calling it the  “ultimate expression of mutual devotion”., but another warns of a “romanticised view of joint death”.

23 Responses to “Would you rather die than lose your partner ?”

  1. 1 Rob (UK)
    July 15, 2009 at 20:18

    I can’t see why this is a “sad case”. The alternative way this could have played it out is with a blind and deaf octogenarian widower, living through the rest of his existence without his wife, who died an unnecessarily painful and drawn out death. Compared to that, what actually happened sounds like rather a happy case.

  2. 2 steve
    July 15, 2009 at 20:28

    That’s why euthanasia shouldn’tbe legal, because doctors will abuse the system and kill people who aren’t terminally ill. Losing your eyesight and hearing aren’t reasons to kill yourself. I am losing my hearing, I will one day be deaf in one of my ears. My eyesight has always been terrible. Killing yourself over another person is like getting a tattoo of another person’s name on your body, STUPID.

  3. 3 Tom K in Mpls
    July 15, 2009 at 23:41

    Or maybe the more debatable question, Do you think assisted suicide is acceptable? Ah, we did this about two weeks ago. The question you pose is case by case opinion.

  4. 4 Jennifer
    July 16, 2009 at 04:57

    I hope when I find my significant other (the lasting one) that I would prefer to die than have to live without him. We’ll see….

    While I think this does show devotion to one another; I am unsure of why one partner would want their significant other to die when they do; especially if that person was healthy and had a life to live. Maybe “romantic” but selfish too.

  5. 5 James Ian
    July 16, 2009 at 06:41

    I could never handle the death of my wife or child. I pray I die before them so I will never have to deal with that pain.

  6. 6 Stania
    July 16, 2009 at 09:48

    I believe that even past Juliet and Romeo’s age there can be time when one feels ready to leave this world together with his/her partner. However, I also believe, that it is a balance and understanding, not an outpour of turbulent emotions, that bring two people to such extreme solution. And if there are two people who, at a mature age, arrive to this point together, it is not up to the others to judge on the level of romanticism in their relationship or a rightness of their decision.

  7. 7 Billy
    July 16, 2009 at 10:16


    Their life their decision.

    No-one should think they have a higher claim to someone else’s life. If you think their decision was unwise then just don’t do the same thing if you are in their position rather. If you want to live as deaf and blind someday I don’t think anyone else would have a problem with that.

  8. 8 Deryck/Trinidad
    July 16, 2009 at 10:34

    Difficult question for me at this young stage of life.

  9. July 16, 2009 at 11:20

    The short answer to the the question is no. I think the photograph was emotionally misleading.

  10. 10 Mohammed Ali
    July 16, 2009 at 11:39

    In the case of Sir Edward Downes and his wife, it is reasonable. But Can say for free that I am not willing to be the Jesus Christ for anyone. I will live until the time destined for me to die.

  11. 11 Ann
    July 16, 2009 at 12:27

    I think it would depend on the circumstanes. In the case of Mr and Mrs Downes, I can completely understand their actions and I believe they have the right to make this choice. They had a peaceful end to a happy successful life and it seems their family were in agreement.

    But people can recover from bereavement and go on to lead fulfilling lives and it would seem a shame if someone denied themselves many years of potential happiness. I will probably die much sooner than my husband because of my illness and I hope he finds the courage to go on without me.

  12. 12 patti in cape coral
    July 16, 2009 at 12:54

    Me personally? I don’t know, but I think my husband and I are the type that would probably let nature take its course. I don’t think we love each other any less because of this, that’s just the way we are. We’ll see what happens when the time comes, though. The photographs are very evocative of a happy life spent together, and it seems they made the right decision for them.

  13. 13 John in Salem
    July 16, 2009 at 14:29

    I’ve no doubt she’ll kill me long before it gets to that point….

    July 16, 2009 at 14:43

    I think they looked back to their better days and it occured to them that there was no fun left. They appear to have been two very seriously married friends beyond the husband wife thing if they ended up taking a dive to the unknown together.

    Until the last day, we are all born to live forever and there is no end to hoping for the good and extended life. The last moments might send to us different messages which I do not have right now.

    The pains are gone for them and probably some new bliss has taken hold.

    I don’t know how to put it right now after later realizing that my opposition to assisted suicide might have a touch of ignorance. Serisously though, I would like to cross the river only after coming close enough to the bridge. Thank you.

  15. 15 steve
    July 16, 2009 at 15:09

    Doctors are supposed to do no harm. In this case, they euthanized a perfectly healthy person. Whomever did this should be in jail, charged with murder. Consent isn’t a defense to murder. I have no problem with the terminally ill being voluntarily euthanized, but a healthy person? Anyone who thinks this is okay lacks any values.

  16. 16 viola
    July 16, 2009 at 17:49

    It’s a tough one. There’s a great song called “Come with Me” in which a dying man pleads for his sweetheart to follow him into death so that they will be together. She declines, saying, “I will not follow you into the dark. Who knows what morning will bring?”

    A reminder: Most wedding vows are a contract between two people only until “death do us part” at which time the one left behind is released from that vow.

  17. 17 nikki
    July 17, 2009 at 21:58

    i would die if i lost my husband i would die with out him cause he my best friend and my husband, and i love him with all my heart. i have been with mine for 20 years now, and cant live without him

  18. July 18, 2009 at 14:19

    I don’t know for myself yet. But I know what happened to my grand parents.

    My grandmother died at high age because of diabetes. My grandfather, nothing really wrong with his physical well-being, died three weeks later without any sign of advance. He only kept very much to himself and seemed very depressed, until his circulation collapsed. He was admitted to the hospital… he stayed there one night, uttered that he had lost his will to live and died the next night in his sleep.

  19. 19 Vijay Pillai
    July 18, 2009 at 20:13

    I think there is a misconception about death in the world and i am not an exception to this thinking in the past.
    What matters is whether life is worth living after what they consider a fulfilled life and why face misery now. As far as they were concerned, they had good life left some legacy and there is no match to eternal love of a husband and wife of more than 50 years together. Death is certain and they have faced life bravely together and so the death,which actually rest the bodies from further pounding from medicine which was not going to give better quality of life for either of them. May god bless theri soul and rest in peaces.

  20. 20 Dennis Junior
    July 19, 2009 at 06:40

    I am taking the side of the dearly departed…Sir Edward Downes and Joan (Downes)…

    My condolences and prayers are being extended to the family and friends….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  21. July 19, 2009 at 19:19

    I would rather do what God wants me to do and that would be to remain and learn the lessons he wants to teach me by experiencing the death of a loved one.

  22. 22 laura
    November 13, 2009 at 01:30

    I think its a good thing to choose when and how you die, its an unavoidable ending we all will face so why not make sure that its as comfortable and stress free as possible?!

  23. 23 lookingforsomethingtofind
    March 5, 2010 at 00:59

    Our lives belong to ourselvs, if he wants to do, and is of sound mind, well then he ought to have that right. To say otherwise would be to say that we are in some way owned by the society we inhabit, not that we are part of the collective, but the collective. He made a choice, and while I don’t morally agree with him, I do concede it is his right to have that choice to make.

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