The pro-life organization, Human Life International, has responded to the bi-annual euthanasia meeting by staging its own conference in Zurich at the same time.
Both groups maintain that the central issue in the debate is one of dignity: Human Life International, together with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, claims that “assisted suicide harms dignity”, while pro-euthanasia activists claim that assisted dying preserves dignity by giving people the right to determine their own end.
The conference of the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies has attracted representatives from 55 countries.
Human Life International says it is concerned about the number of people choosing assisted suicide out of a perceived sense of duty.
“The pressure is growing on people who can no longer give to society what is expected of them. They increasingly feel themselves a burden for society and their relatives,” said Roland Graf of Human Life International Switzerland.
The group's Swiss chief, Christophe Keel, was more forthright:
“We specifically want to target those who are dying and most susceptible to the ‘mercy killing’ propaganda to petition Congress to confront this issue and ask whether assisted suicide actually guarantees more human dignity,” he told Tages Anzeiger.
Against this backdrop of competing conferences, the canton of Vaud will vote on Sunday on whether to legislate to require that assisted dying be offered in nursing homes.
Catholic bishop Charles Morerod from Vaud believes a positive vote would force nurses who did not agree with the practice to leave their workplaces, and disagrees that euthanasia offers freedom.
“Life is a gift and it is wrong to think we have the freedom to refuse or return it. Moreover, suicide has an extremely hard impact on families. If you present it as a right, then you forget too quickly that others around us have rights too,” he told online news site Le Matin.
The bishop explained that the church has purposefully remained silent on the issue because it does not want to impose its views. Nevertheless, when questioned the bishop told the website that, should he ever be asked to assist, he would try to dissuade the person from going ahead.