Once every two years, there is a formal meeting of delegates from the 16 European member societies of the World Federation. This group, known as Right to Die Europe (RtD Europe for short) is the umbrella organization to exchange information and co-ordinate political lobbying in Europe on matters of mutual concern.
The 2003 meeting was held in October and generously hosted by one of the smaller European Societies — ADMD Luxembourg. Approximately 50 people (delegates and partners) assembled for a two-day meeting at the Parc Hotel, Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg.
These biennial meetings provide an opportunity for delegates from the different member societies to get to know each other, exchange ideas and decide how the available cash resources should best be deployed. The aim is to lobby and influence political decisions taken by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament on right to die issues generally.
Since the previous meeting in 2001, real progress has been made in a number of directions. The most notable developments include:
- The doctor-assisted dying legislation, which came into effect in Belgium and in the Netherlands.
- The proposed legislation to allow physician-assisted dying in Luxembourg. Although this was narrowly defeated by one vote, the Vice President of ADMD Luxembourg (Jean Huss) is himself a prominent Member of Parliament. So it is likely that this will be an important issue in the country’s national elections to be held in 2004.
- The local Parliaments of two separate, self-governing British Islands (Guernsey and the Isle of Man) have each voted in favour of setting up Commissions to investigate the implications of doctor-assisted dying laws. Their reports will be available in 2004.
- In France and Switzerland, Commissions have been set up to investigate end of life issues.
- Plans are afloat in Finland, Italy and Sweden to introduce Bills into their respective Parliaments in the near future.
- In the UK, three leading members of an influential House of Lords Committee which produced a negative report on the need for euthanasia some years ago have changed their minds and now support the need for some form of legislation.
During the last year, an intern (Jenny Saunders) has been employed to monitor developments at the Council of Europe and in the European Parliament. The finance for this was partly provided by the World Federation itself and partly by donations from the French, Dutch, UK and Swiss Germanspeaking member societies. These funds have enabled regular information to be collated and supplied to all member societies. In turn, this has made possible some co-ordinated lobbying throughout Europe. It is hoped to improve the efficiency of this activity during the next two years but, as always, cash availability is the limiting factor.
Dealing with the formalities of the Luxembourg meeting, two of the previous Board Members retired from office. These were Claudia Wiedemann and Hermien Zoethoot. A special vote of thanks was given to Hermien who had been the Secretary of RtD Europe.
The new Board now comprises:
Elka Baezner from Exit Deutche Schweiz; Anns Baars from NVVE; Margareta Appel from Ratten Till Van Dod (Sweden) and Ron Plummer from VES UK.
After the formal meeting, there was a seminar to provide training in techniques & strategies for successful political lobbying. This was led by a professional PR / Public Affairs Consultant and convincingly showed the analytical way in which successful campaign strategies need to be organized.
The final event of the meeting was a convivial coach trip and tour of the Wine Cellars of Bernard-Massard on the banks of the beautiful Mosel River.
At the European conference of the World Federation of Right to Die
Societies, pictured from left, Shahnaz Plummer, Ron Plummer
(European president) and Jean Huss, vice president of ADMD
Luxembourg and also a Green Party member of that country’s
Jacques Pohier, of ADMD France, is having a social drink after
the meetings, with Jacqueline Herremans (left, Belgium) and
Marthy Putz (right, Luxembourg).