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Renowned NYC musician dies by assisted suicide in Switzerland after having ‘completed life’

Anton Fier, 66, was a prominent figure in the New York music scene in the 1980s and 1990s, and had fallen on difficult times, friends said

Bevan Hurley
Thursday 13 October 2022 14:12 BST
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A renowned genre-bending drummer who played with musicians from Michael Stipe to Herbie Hancock died by assisted suicide in Switzerland after having “completed life”.

Anton Fier, 66, travelled to Basel, Switzerland, where he died by assisted suicide at the Pegasos clinic on 14 September, according to a cremation notice.

Exit International director Philip Nitschke told The Independent that Fier was not suffering from terminal illness, but wanted to die on his own terms after feeling he had accomplished everything he could in life.

Dr Nitschke said Fier joined Exit, which provides advice to people over 50 looking to end their lives, in April 2022 and was active on the group’s online forum Peaceful Pills.

Fier had been suffering from arthritis and back pain, from his decades of drumming and carrying heavy equipment, Dr Nitschke said.

In a letter shared with The Independent, Nier wrote: “I feel that I've done all that I can do in this life. I was never interested in living to be an old man unable to physically do what I love and did for a living.”

“My father died at 42 and my mother at 52. I never expected or prepared myself to live this long and had no example of how to properly do so.”

Fier had also alluded to an unhappy childhood and how the discovery of music had changed his life.

Dr Nitchske said there was no suggestion that Nier had made other suicide attempts and that he decided on the “Swiss option” rather than the other DIY strategies commonly employed.

In online tributes and articles marking his death, friends and musical collaborators painted a portrait of a hugely influential and complex musician who had fallen on difficult times.

The New York Times reported that Fier was in financial trouble and had been unable to continue playing drums to his own high standards after injuring his wrists.

“He had a lot of pressures and a lot of anxieties,” friend and singer-songwriter Lianne Smith told the Times. “But when he played music, he was a complete human being.”

Cleveland-born Fier became a key figure in New York City’s music scene in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Anton Fier performed with rock, indie and jazz bands during a celebrated drumming career (Screengrab: Open TV / YouTube)

He joined influential rock group The Feelies in 1978 and went onto found the supergroup Golden Palominos in the 1980s, becoming the sole constant in an ever-changing lineup of musicians that featured guest appearances from REM frontman Michael Stipe and former Sex Pistols singer John Lydon.

Fier also played with experimental jazz band The Lounge Lizards and toured and recorded with legendary pianist Herbie Hancock in the 80s.

The Feelies paid tribute to their former bandmate in a Facebook post.

“As a musician, Anton held himself to a very high bar, which in turn inspired those around him to be better,” the band wrote. “We all lost a wonderful musician, a truly great drummer. And peace has found him.”

His former fiancé and singer-songwriter Lori Carson wrote in a blogpost that Fier was full of “contradictions”.

“It makes me sad to know you are no longer here. But I don’t begrudge you your exit, and I understand it. Without music, what was life’s purpose?” she wrote.

Friends told the Times that Fier had become a recluse in his latter years, and begun researching ways to end his life after being “hounded by creditors”.

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in 10 US states and Washington DC, and more than a dozen more states are considering passing legislation, but only for patients in the end stages of a terminal illness.

The debate over assisted suicide was reignited after the deaths of Arizona sisters Lila Ammouri, a palliative care doctor, and Susan Frazier in February.

Lila Ammouri and Susan Frazier died at the Pegasos clinic in Basel in February (Screengrab/Facebook)

The sisters travelled to Basel, Switzerland, without telling their colleagues or brother, and paid $11,000 each to die by taking an intravenous injection of Nembutal.

They had suffered from medical “frustrations” such as vertigo and back pain and had become “tired of life”, Dr Nitschke told The Independent.

The issue is often fiercely contested between right to die organisations and opponents, who say the laws are open to exploitation of vulnerable citizens who may suffer from a disability.

Fier would not have met the eligibility requirements of assisted suicide in the United States.

Dr Nitschke has previously told The Independent that the Swiss laws which gives mentally competent adults over 18 the right to choose to die should be adopted as a legislative model in other jurisdictions.

“Under Californian law, you can be suffering horrifically but unless you’re going to die in six months it’s not an option.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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