More than 100 delegates from right-to-die organisations are expected in Zurich for the Congress of the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies, which runs from June 13 to 16. A counter conference is due to take place simultaneously.
The highlight of the right-to-die event will be a public debate day on Friday, which will be attended by Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.
According to the federation website, there are more than 55 right-to-die societies in more than 45 countries worldwide.
“Every other year, they congregate for a world congress to discuss ways to deepen their commitment toward worldwide respect of the human right of self-determination.”
Among the speakers addressing the congress are best-selling British author and Alzheimer’s sufferer Terry Pratchett and controversial Australian assisted suicide doctor and author of The Peaceful Pill, Philip Nitschke.
Debbie Purdy, a leading British campaigner for the right to die who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is scheduled to speak on Friday, as is a lawyer involved in the Terri Schiavo case, George Felos.
The perspective of the Swiss authorities will be represented by Zurich public prosecutor Andreas Brunner and a former member of Zurich’s cantonal government Markus Notter.
The Canada-based Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is the official organiser of the counter-conference, which is being held in a venue across the road from the right-to-die congress.
Alex Schadenberg of the EPC will attend, along with members of the Swiss pro-life organisation Human Life International Schweiz (HLI-Schweiz).
Schadenberg told swissinfo.ch that the idea behind the counter-conference was to provide balance for people who would be hearing news stories and possibly interested in attending the world federation conference.
He plans to present several studies that uncover serious problems with applying legal euthanasia or assisted suicide. “There are no circumstances where the law should allow others to aid, counsel or encourage others to commit suicide,” he said.
On Saturday the Swiss assisted suicide organisation Exit will hold an event to celebrate 30 years since its founding. Delegates will also have the opportunity to visit the premises of Dignitas – Switzerland’s other leading assisted suicide organisation – near Zurich where non-residents of Switzerland come to die.
The number of people who ended their lives with the help of assisted suicide organisations increased significantly in 2011. Exit, which caters for Swiss residents only, revealed it helped a total of 416 people to end their lives last year.
In 2011, Dignitas helped 144 people to commit suicide, representing an increase of 35 per cent on 2010.