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Court cases draw attention to cause

We must always remind ourselves that the World Federation unfortunately has to operate on a limited income. At present, the subscriptions from our 39 Member Societies only produce a few thousand dollars each year. That is why the proposed motion (to be discussed at our Tokyo Conference) to increase the maximum for the annual ­membership fees to US$1000—which will only affect the much larger societies—is so important.

Up to now, when considering new World Federation projects, we could only implement those which cost almost nothing.
Two good examples of such activities, in the past year, are the first Annual Global Report (based on information I received from 27 Member Societies) which was issued last December, and quoted in various publications worldwide, and the draft World Federation Manifesto which has already ­produced positive responses from nine of our Members. Hopefully, the Annual Report can become a regular event, and the Manifesto is formally adopted in Tokyo in October.

Earlier this year, our Treasurer, Annelies Plaisant, sent out requests for the 2004 membership fees. It is important to remember that if a member society has not paid its annual dues by the autumn, it may cease to be in the World Federation (I am sure that every society, represented in Tokyo, will be fully paid up!)

New activities?

In spite of the above somewhat pessimistic comments, any member society which has an idea for some new project, to be undertaken in the name of the World Federation, should contact me or another member of the Board of Directors. If such a proposal is accepted by the Board and should require extra funding, then a special appeal could perhaps be made to member societies for this purpose.

The World Federation is a loosely-related, global network of organizations with a variety of objectives, ranging from the promotion of living wills and their legislation to positive laws permitting assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. Basically, I am pleased to note that our links remain good.

Our international biennial conferences allow for the renewal of important personal contacts and the development of new ones, as well as assisting the local Society by providing good media coverage for the interesting relevant public ­discussions which are held. We must always be grateful to the host(s) who arrange these conferences because each event requires a great deal of planning and hard work. And, when regional conferences are also held, these can generate many mutual benefits—as was seen in Luxembourg last October.

I am pleased to announce that a new member society, Libera Uscita (based in Rome), has been given “interim” membership by our Board, and formal approval will be requested at the next delegates meeting, in Tokyo.

Our newsletters report on interesting events and are a very important permanent record of what has been happening globally. Recently, I re-read parts of the 1981–2000 compi­lation of these newsletters which Derek Humphry produced at the beginning of this century: collectively, this gives an inspiring account of the development of the right-to-die movement. I am so grateful to Derek for remaining as our Editor.

Then, our new web site—thanks to Guido Hulscher at NVVE—provides much reliable information. I hope that individual Member Societies will make even greater use of this web site, and regularly contact Guido ( to make their own inputs.

Finally, of course, the Board of Directors is the continuous central link of the World Federation. Although each Director is on the Board in an individual capacity, the present membership covers ten member societies. We are a most harmonious body, regularly keeping in touch with each other by e-mail (nowadays, it is hard to imagine a life without e-mails!) between our annual meetings.

An ageing world

We are living now in what some population experts are calling an agequake. According to recent UN estimates, the world’s population of people 60 years or older is expected to triple to two billion by 2050—then, one person in five will be over 60 (and it is believed that there will even be more than two million people over 100).

This ageing population will naturally increase the pressures on the health care systems around the world; and will also indirectly perhaps generate much greater interest in positive laws on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia in many countries?

Within the past year, several court cases around the world, especially those of Evelyn Martens in Canada and Lesley Martin in New Zealand, have generated much media attention on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. (Lesley was found guilty in March of attempting to murder her mother; sentence not imposed at the time we go to press. Evelyn’s ­trial is set for September.)

While the World Federation and individual member ­societies may, for a variety of reasons, be reluctant to officially encourage their members to break local laws, I am personally certain that such court cases will eventually help to increasingly mobilize national opinions in favour of parliamentary actions for legalized assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia.