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Issue No. 31
ISSN 0742-535X
February, 1998


President's letter
12thInternational Conference
Change of Leadership at DwD, Canada

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President's letter

Federation's key role as an "umbrella group"

by Hugh Wynne, world president 1996-98

As we approach our next two-yearly international conference, I should like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the matters that have concerned the Board since the last meeting at Melbourne.

As an umbrella organization, the World Federation of Right to Die Societies (WF) covers many strands of thought about our common aim: self-determination in dying. The WF has neither mandate or resources to pursue single causes. Rather, we seek to communicate & facilitate actions of member societies in furtherance of our shared goal.

As a member society within the WF, you will appreciate the important role of the WF and the good reasons why membership should be as broad and large as possible. In summary, these reasons include the following:

  1. Member societies can attend and participate in international conferences and business meetings held by the WF.
  2. Member societies can identify and communicate with one another for purposes of advice, co-operation, liaison, support, etc. on matters of mutual interest.
  3. Member societies support the WF in promoting the cause of self-determination in dying by making representations to appropriate international organizations and by commissioning and publishing research.
  4. A society's membership of the WF adds support to the only world movement for the right to die, both by reason of the support of the individual members of that society and by adding to the number of Member Societies Worldwide. All this makes for solidarity, and contributes to a respectable body of opinion on the matter.
  5. Member societies receive and contribute to the WF Newsletter.

Sadly, resignations from the WF have been received from VES Scotland and South Africa VES; both resulted from requests to pay reduced WF Membership fees. Any such reduction would be based on the most recent financial accounts from the member society. The Board was not able to approve reductions because, from the financial information provided, it did not appear that hardship would be caused to these member societies by paying their prescribed normal fee. This is based on 2% of after-tax income, subject to a minimum of US $50- and a maximum of US $500.

VESS announced its resignation publicly on the Internet at the time of leaving the WF, adding comments on WF policy and constitution. The Board really had no option but to issue a statement containing the foregoing explanation, noting that policy differences were not relevant to the issue of feel levels, and pointing out that there were other ways of dealing with such differences. The WF hoped that VESS would in due course reconsider its decision and rejoin, because the movement benefits from solidarity.

In April 1997, some of the Directors of the WF European Division held a meeting in London at the invitation of ED President Jean Davies. A number of European observers were also invited, including three Directors of the WF (MH, AOAS, HTW) who were thus able to meet informally.

The Board was very sorry to hear that Newsletter Editor Derek Humphry had been hospitalised for heart surgery in June 1997. He felt it necessary to resign as Newsletter Editor. Finding a substitute proved very difficult and we were truly delighted and relieved when, two months later, Derek felt fit enough to withdraw his resignation and to continue as Newsletter Editor.

In July 1997 four directors (FGD, MH, AOAS, HTW) were able to meet at the home of Secretary Malcolm Hurwitt, thanks to his and his wife Marilynne's kind hospitality. The meeting was generally useful, particularly as Treasurer Frank Dungey had not been in London for the informal meeting in April.

In September 1997, the WF European Division held its general meeting at Mondorf les Bains, Luxembourg, hosted by the local member society ADMD-L & organized by the affable, efficient and energetic member Marthy Putz, who lived at Mondorf. Five Directors of the WF (MH, JP, AOAS, MS, HTW) were able to be in attendance, and these five also took advantage of the opportunity to hold a WF business meeting. This allowed further much needed discussion between the last two-yearly Board meeting in Melbourne 11 months earlier and the next due in Zurich 13 months later.

The Directors have been considering whether and to whom the George Saba Memorial Medal should be awarded next October "for outstanding contributions to the right to die movement". I should be interested in any suggestions (to be sent to me in confidence).

We have been fortunate to be able to continue to consult Sidney Rosoff, the distinguished New York lawyer, who was both a founder and a former president of the WF, on a number of constitutional and related points.

                                       Hugh Wynne My appeal to member societies, on behalf of the WF, for funds to support the proposed employment of a part time Development Officer for the WF has produced a disappointing result. To date, one or two member societies have yet to make firm pledges of significant financial support. With these assured, it may be possible to proceed but on a more limited basis than we had hoped.

Recently a job description for the part time Development Officer was agreed by the Board, as follows:

  1. To report to and work with the President & Board of Directors on all matters affecting the pursuit and achievement of the aims of the WF, under the direction of the President.
  2. To use the media in all forms to promote the aims of the WF.
  3. To address meetings, to lobby, and to prepare, collage and provide up to date & relevant information, targeting health care professionals, support groups for the incurably ill, educational, international & political institutions, and other interested groups and individuals, including statesmen, politicians & international figures, all to promote the aims of the WF.
  4. To liaise and cooperate with other relevant organizations.
  5. To provide the Newsletter Editor with material for the WF Newsletter.
  6. To inform, advise & assist Member Societies, as appropriate.
  7. To assist with the organization of WF conferences as hosted by Member Societies and held from time to time.
  8. To seek out and encourage as appropriate other Right to Die societies to join the WF and, so far as practical, to help new groups to become viable societies.

To work on behalf of the WF as the Board may from time to time decide.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in this job, please contact me or any Director. Vice-President Mary Gallnor has produced a questionnaire to member societies to ascertain expectations and attitudes to the WF. The responses will be used to adjust future policy so far as practicable, and will be of immense value, especially if we are able to appoint a Development Officer. If you have not yet returned your questionnaire to Mary Gallnor, it is not too late to do so. It is important that we are as fully informed as possible.

The organization and generous support by Exit Deutsche Schweiz of the next two-yearly conference in Zurich in October 1998 now appears to be well in hand, under the management of Ruth Rybi & Peter Holenstein. We have sent them lots of information about the experience of running previous WF conferences and the lessons learned from these, so we should look forward to an efficient and interesting time in Zurich.

Four months before the next conference in Zurich the Secretary Malcolm Hurwitt will send to member societies nomination forms for positions on the WF Board. These will be voted on in general meeting at Zurich. Provision of information on being a Director is presently under discussion.

Secretary Malcolm Hurwitt and I have been going over the previous ground regarding recognition as a Non-Governmental Organisation at the UN Council of Europe, & elsewhere (e.g. possibly the Red Cross & Red Crescent), as previously explored by former President Helga Kuhse. For this, it may be necessary for the WF to assume corporate, tax-exempt (charitable) status.

With the Board's approval and support, Secretary Malcolm Hurwitt continues exploration of mutually beneficial contacts with the International Humanist & Ethical Union. This follows my earlier overtures and a meeting with their Executive Director Babu R R Gogineni, who attended the meeting of the WF ED Directors in London in April 1997.

Over the months the Directors have had reason to give grateful thanks for the support of member societies on many occasions. Some have been very generous, encouraging and supportive, which is a good sign. I have been immensely grateful also for the wise and balanced advice of Directors on occasions too numerous to mention, and I thank them all.

With all good wishes,
Hugh 30 January l998

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12thInternational Conference of the "World Federation of Right to Die Societies"

12 - 15 October 1998 in Zürich, Switzerland

Hosted by:

EXIT, Feldeggstrasse 13, CH - 8034 Zürich

Phone +41 - 1- 383 33 53

Fax +41 - 1 - 383 33 78

E-mail GL@exit.ch



Ruth Rybi, Rütistrasse 66

CH - 8044 Zürich-Gockhausen

Phone +41 - 1- 821 48 38

Fax +41 - 1- 821 84 48

E-mail ruth.rybi@duebinet.ch

The organization of the 1998 Conference is progressing very well and we are pleased to give you first information about the event. You will get the detailed program together with the invitation early in summer. We would like to thank all those who have answered our questionnaire, giving us many useful suggestions and ideas which will contribute to the success of the Conference. Many thanks also to all those who offer their help. We will feel free to contact them if needed.

The Conference 1998 offers the rare chance to inform a large public about the activities and objectives of the World Federation and its member societies. We want this event and the topics it covers to find as much attention as possible in the media and will realize several mailings to the international and Swiss media before and after the Conference. There will also be a media conference during the event.

Convention Centre The Conference will take place at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI), a convention centre only ten kilometers from the centre of Zürich. It offers a large conference room, several smaller rooms for informal meetings and discussion groups, a professional staff and a restaurant and will be entirely at our disposal for the whole duration of the Conference.

Program Preview

Sunday, 11 October

Arrival of the guests in Zürich, check-in at the hotels

Monday, 12 October

Morning Old Board Meeting 1


Welcome and opening of the Conference

2 speeches (with following discussion, questions/answers)

Welcome cocktail, lunch

Afternoon Delegates Meeting 1 (discussion of internal matters)

Evening Optional:

Dinner at the GDI

Presentations, discussion groups

Tuesday, 13 October

Morning Old Board Meeting 2

Media conference

(presentation of the George Saba Medal)

Questions/answers, interviews

Cocktail, Lunch

Afternoon Delegates Meeting 2 (discussion of internal matters, election of new board)

Evening Optional:

Dinner at the GDI

Presentations, discussion groups

Wednesday, 14 October

Morning New Board Meeting 1

3 speeches (with following discussion, questions/answers)


Afternoon Delegates Meeting 3

(Discussion of internal matters, may be extended if needed)

Evening Free time

Thursday, 15 October

Morning New Board Meeting 2 (if needed)

3 speeches (with following discussion, questions/answers)


Afternoon Presentations, speeches

Closing of the Conference

Evening Dinner at the Hotel +Savoy Baur-en-Ville;

Friday, 16 October

(optional) One-day-excursion

You will get the invitation with the detailed program early in summer.


Besides the delegates, many people seem interested in attending the Conference. There will be four categories of particpants:

1. Delegates appointed by member societies: they have full rights to attend, speak and vote at all sessions.

2. Other members of societies: they can attend all sessions, speak but not vote.

3. Potential member societies: they can attend the open sessions (speeches) and are given observer status at the delegates meetings, can speak with the permission of the Chair, but not vote.

4. Other persons can attend only the open sessions and the discussion groups if they have registered. They pay a conference fee according to the number of sessions they register for.


So far, the following speakers have accepted our invitation:

Australia: Ms. Rosemary Dewick, Dr. Philip Nitschke

France: Prof. Jacques Pohier

Netherlands: Dr. Aycke Smook

USA: Prof. Charles Baron. Dr. Faye Girsh, Mr. Derek Humphry, Dr. Sidney Rosoff

Switzerland: Prof. Dr. Meinrad Schär, Dr. Harri Wettstein


On 16 October, we will organize a one-day-excursion to Lucerne: round-trip to he Pilatus (steepest cogwheel railway in the world) - guided city tour and shopping - Swiss dinner. There may be changes in the program in case of bad weather.

Conference Fee

We do not charge a conference fee (except for guests in category 4).


EXIT will cover the following expenses: transportation from the hotels to the GDI and back, the lunches, drinks and dinners taken at the GDI and the final dinner.

All other expenses, i.e. travel and hotel expenses, dinner outside the GDI, taxis etc. are at your own charge. Please pay these expenses with your credit card or cash. EXIT will not pay any personal expenses and charge them afterwards. So please make sure that you will have your credit card and sufficient Swiss francs or traveller checks ready.

Those who will join in the excursion on 16 October will pay a contribution.


All the WF Board members and speakers will stay at the Hotel Belvoir ****, in walking distance of the convention centre (Costs: single or double room with bath or shower, incl. breakfast, per person CHF 185 to 210).

All the other guests will stay at two comfortable hotels close to the GDI (ten minutes by car). A bus-shuttle will pick them up in the morning and bring them back in the evening:

Hotel Engimatt ***

(Costs: single or double room with shower, incl. breakfast, per person CHF 180)

Hotel Montana ***

(Costs: single or double room with shower, incl. breakfast, per person CHF 170 to 210).

The hotel rooms will be booked in the incoming order of the registrations.


To be able to make the hotel reservations as soon as possible, please fill in the included form and send it by e-mail (registration form on the EXIT home page: <www.exit.ch>), fax or mail to the following address until 25 March at the latest:

Ruth Rybi, Rütistrasse 66, CH - 8044 Zürich-Gockhausen

Phone +41 - 1- 821 48 38, fax +41 - 1- 821 84 48, e-mail ruth.rybi@duebinet.ch

This is a provisional registration. For your definite registration, you will get a reply card together with the invitation.

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Some reports have stated that the Oregon Death with Dignity Act has not yet been implemented because of an ongoing court case. This is untrue. The Act, which permits physician-assisted suicide for a terminally ill adult became law on 27 October, l997, and is numbered ORS 127.800.897. The ongoing court case has not affected the law's implementation.

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Change of Leadership at DwD, Canada

The January, l998, Newsletter of Dying with Dignity, in Toronto, Canada, reports that Cynthia St. John has been appointed executive director of the organization to replace Marilyne Seguin, who is retiring after 18 years in the post.

Ms. St. John was until recently director of education and planning for the Canadian Society of Association Executives. She is an honors graduate of the Volunteer Sector Management Program at York University, and has more than 16 years experience in the nonprofit sector.

Ms.Seguin had been executive director of Dying with Dignity since its formation in l980. Ms. Seguin has stated that she is dying of leukemia and brain lesions and that she expects to take her own life within 18 months.

"I have very strong feelings about my right to autonomy and self-control and I find no fear in the concept of death," the DwD Newsletter reports her as saying. "What I do fear is the concept of being alive but not living... either I will manage my own death, if I can, or I will have an assisted death."

Ms.Seguin added this note:-

My e-mail address is dwdcams@web.net and I would very much appreciate being kept on your mailing lists. Future commitments as a speaker, consultant in the care of the seriously ill etc. are very much a part of my plans, as is travel and taking time to pick more daisies, do more bird-watching in as many locations as possible, and continuing to advocate for better living and dying for all people.

Please share your newsletters, articles and communiques with me as I do not frequent the office on a daily basis. I am a realist about my illness but still have a lot of living to do and hopefully a great deal of accumulated knowledge and experience to share with you. Greetings and many thanks for your support, respect and sharing these many years.

Marilynne Seguin, R.N.

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