Taking issue with Downes’ Syndrome

Taking issue with Downes’ Syndrome


norman lebrecht

August 24, 2009

Stephen Hough has slightly jumped the gun on one of the topics in tonight’s Lebrecht Interview by setting out his views on assisted suicide in his telegraph blog, here.

We were discussing the deaths of the conductor Edward Downes and his wife Joan who, in their own way, jumped the gun recently by opting for euthanasia in a Swiss clinic, Dignitas, rather than awaiting the inevitable.

Stephen, a devout Roman Catholic, argued lucidly against the legalisation of assisted suicide on the grounds that it would encourage elderly people to makes themselves ‘less of a burden’ on younger relatives, and that it would subject doctors to more moral stress and executive authority than they are qualified to exert.

Quite by coincidence, a very junior hospital doctor told me yesterday of an elderly patient in the final stages of cancer who refused to sign the DNR (do not resuscitate) forms, only for the attending physician to attempt to persuade her son to sign them by proxy. The doctor will have thought he was acting in the patient’s best interests – resuscitation of a comatose aged person is not pleasant for anyone – even as he overrode her express wishes. It is for such reasons that I believe we need to think very carefully before altering the laws on euthensia.

You may feel differently … feel free to discuss below.

In our intense and extensive conversation, Stephen – who is by far the most successful British pianists of recent times – touches upon his own near-death experience, as well his battle to convince the Church to recognise gay relationships.

The Lebrecht Interview airs tonight at 2145 UK and streams all week online on BBC Radio 3.