Right to Die Europe is an integral part of the World Federation. Its aim has been to facilitate an exchange of information on matters of particular relevance to member societies in Europe. In the past, this has been achieved by holding an annual meeting of delegates from member societies and by ad-hoc exchanges of information.
However, as a result of increasing political co-ordination throughout Europe, it has become apparent that we need to upgrade the quality of our efforts and to provide all European Right to Die Societies with more frequent reports on legal and political developments. This is because so much is now happening within Europe the consequences of which extend well beyond individual national borders.
To meet this need, plans have been finalized to improve the collection and dissemination of information and starting in July 2003, a regular quarterly News-Update will be sent out to all European member Societies.
A research assistant has been engaged to handle this work and she is based at the London Headquarters of the English Society. Working under the day to day control of Keith Reed the researcher will be seeking regular updates from all member societies in Europe as well as monitoring developments at European bodies such as The European Parliament and The Council of Europe. The funds for this coordinated effort are being provided partly by the World Federation itself and partly by a number of European Member Societies.
If proof were needed as to how essential it has become to look beyond European National borders, two examples will illustrate the point.
First, following successful lobbying by religious pressure groups, in April of this year MPs at the European Parliament voted against allowing scientists to carry out research on stem cells taken from embryos. This is the type of issue usually left to individual states to legislate on and so this development is likely to cause problems for a number of governments who have previously taken a more liberal position on this issue.
Secondly, some countries which are now candidates to join the European Union are lobbying for clear references to be included in future European Conventions emphasizing Christian values and the role of the church. This represents a challenge to the principal of separation of state and church. It could well represent an ominous threat to the aims of Right to die Societies throughout Europe. This is a development that we will need to watch carefully.
On more day-to-day matters, the next annual meeting of European Societies will be held in Luxembourg between 24 – 26 October 2003. This is being hosted by ADMD Luxembourg, which is to be congratulated for its efforts in connection with the recent parliamentary vote in Luxembourg to legalize assisted dying. Although unsuccessful, the vote was very close and no doubt there will be a further push on another occasion.
Finally, Right to Die-Europe is developing plans for active participation on the World Federation Website and the establishment of a secure extranet facility for European Societies to share confidential information. More about this in future editions.