Jill Lawless writes:
He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.
…the two of them traveled to Switzerland to seek the aid of the assisted-suicide group Dignitas. At Dignitas’ clinic, they each drank a lethal dose of sedatives, fell asleep and died peacefully, hand in hand.
Edward and Joan were atheists, and there was no funeral.
I think their death is more courageous, dignified, and beautiful than most deaths. They accepted death and chose to do it their way, rather than clinging to each last thread of diminished life in pain, fear, and mental deterioration.
When it is clear to me that I have little left to contribute to the world, that I will mostly be a burden, that my body or mind will quickly deteriorate, then I want die of my own choosing. I want to die making a statement. Or maybe I will go skydiving without a parachute. Or maybe I will submit to a useful scientific experiment that will unavoidably result in my death. If possible, I want to die on my own terms.
I do not fear my death, for there is no experience to fear after death. I will not wake up in hell. Nor will I wake up in heaven to worship a supreme dictator forever. I will not miss living, for I will not exist.
What I do fear, a little, is dying the “normal” way. I do not like the thought of spending so much time in pain and confusion, in hospitals. I do not like the thought of being a burden to people who love me. I do not like the thought of using up so much money just to keep me (barely) alive. I do not like the thought of rapidly losing my mental acuity.
Death is the end. That’s the way it is, and it’s okay. It can even be beautiful, as it was for Edward and Joan.