Recently, a distinguished British orchestra conductor and his wife chose to die together. Yes, they chose to commit suicide. Sir Edward Downes was 85 and his wife, Lady Joan Downes was 74. They had lived, happily married, for 54 years and wanted to die together, in dignity, in peace. They informed their near and dear ones about their decision and all of them understood. Surely, it wasn’t easy for the couple’s children to stand by and watch their parents consume a lethal cocktail of barbiturates, lie down side by side on adjacent beds, hold hands, close their eyes and leave them behind. And yet, they steeled themselves and stood the test. It calls for much love to endure such an ordeal.
Now, the ‘assisted-suicide’ as the dignified, voluntary death of the couple is called in obscure, administrative lingo, has provoked a debate about the ethics of such ‘assisted suicides’ and the need to re-consider or re-activate the legislation in this regard.
In India, on World Population Day, a Central government minister has called for people to watch television late into the night, presumably because they’d feel too sleepy to do anything else when they retire for the night! This is his prescription for controlling the country’s burgeoning, billion-plus population without offending the religious sentiments of those that are against other, saner, more viable population control measures.
I find it difficult to understand how governments and their representatives can presume the right to impact the personal decisions of their people – from when and how one should die to how and when one should conceive, and, perhaps, be born!