Going Too Far with Assisted Suicide?

An elderly British couple's suicide pact is a beautifully romantic act — and a troubling one

Illustration by Gerard Dubois for TIME

Was there a duet playing in the back of his mind, I wonder, when Sir Edward Downes, the former conductor of Britain's Royal Opera, held hands with his wife of 54 years and drank the poison with her? Wagner maybe, or Verdi's Aida, one lover condemned to die, the other choosing to follow rather than live half a life, all alone.

The story of Sir Edward's "death pact" was at first sight an irresistible love story. His wife Joan, 74, a former ballerina, had a diagnosis of terminal liver and pancreatic cancer; because assisted suicide is illegal in Britain,...

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