Heard of a place to commit suicide legally?

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LONDON - BRITISH conductor Edward Downes and his wife have died at an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland, their family said on Tuesday.

The family said Downes, 85, and his 74-year-old wife Joan died on Friday 'peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing' at a Zurich clinic run by the group Dignitas.

The family statement said Downes had become almost blind and increasingly deaf. His wife, a former dancer, choreographer and television producer, had devoted years to working as his assistant.

'After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems,' the statement said.

Dignitas refused to comment from its office near Zurich.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are banned in Britain, but British courts have been reluctant to convict people who help loved ones travel to clinics abroad to end their lives.

Born in Birmingham, central England, in 1924, Edward Downes had long associations with the Royal Opera House - where he conducted every season for more than 50 years - and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, where he became principal conductor and later conductor emeritus.

As music director of the Australian Opera, he conducted the first performance at the Sydney Opera House in 1973, and he also worked with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra and ensembles around the world.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991, becoming Sir Edward Downes.

The couple is survived by a son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca. The family said there would be no funeral. -- AP


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