The most important part of the International Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide was the strategy session that was held on Nov. 29, the day before the public symposium began. International leaders had an opportunity to discuss their concerns and successes. This was a ground-breaking moment for many of the leaders who work in their jurisdictions and rarely get the opportunity to discuss their organizational needs and goals with one another.

Euthanasia opponents, including pro-life groups, religious organizations and disabilities rights groups, shared their experiences as they discussed the difficulties that are faced. They acknowledged each country or region has the same issues being brought forward in a similar manner, with only minor differences based on the particular culture or laws. And they acknowledged the need to communicate as leaders and groups.

Recognizing both their differences and common concerns enables the anti-euthanasia movement to grow in the understanding of common challenges and enact more effective strategies.

The participants agreed to establish a system of communication that would enable all leaders and groups to share information on a moderated and regular basis, a significant step forward in working together and building upon what works, while avoiding unnecessary, but learned, mistakes.

They established an international leadership team to organize events, to discuss and enhance strategy and to be responsible for an effective communication strategy.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (and a member of The Interim’s editorial advisory board) was chosen to be the first secretariat chair for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – International. The other leaders named to the Secretariat were: Marilyn Golden, from the Disability Rights Education and Defence Fund; Henk Reitsema from the Netherlands; and Barbara Lyons from the Nightingale Alliance.

Schadenberg said, “The strategy meeting opened the door to new shared growth in efforts to protect the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.”