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At an international meeting of euthanasia and assisted suicide organizations [Toronto 1-9 September 2006] spokesmen from the US-based group, Compassion and Choices, admitted that their Client Support Program is an active assisted suicide program.

They revealed that program trains volunteers to assist their clients to kill themselves while remaining technically within the law.

Ostensibly strictly for purposes of disseminating information to people who are seeking “choices” at the end of their lives, Helen Beum the program’s director said it has 130 volunteers spanning 27 U.S. states. Program volunteers who spoke at the conference, were forthright about their involvement in assisting suicides.

Though most of the clients who called only received information and counseling and went no further, they said, some who called were actively assisted to kill themselves by the program. Beum said the Client Support Program is an active assisted suicide program that trains volunteers to “journey” with and at times assist their clients to kill themselves.

The volunteers explained that the program training is careful to skirt the law but not step over the line, doing everything possible to arrange for someone to commit suicide other than physically doing the act.

Beum admitted that the volunteers sometimes quit in frustration because they perceive that the process of helping clients to die is too restricted by the laws. Sam F., a volunteer who spoke at the conference, described how he was “passionate about hastening death,” saying he was a “minister” for 40 years and witnessed many people suffer while dying. He had been involved with his first hastened death a few weeks previous and felt that it was the “right thing to do.”

Another volunteer, Judy S. (Cincinnati) promoted the idea of assisted suicide as a cost-cutting measure for health care, saying that the cost for medical technology is often a “waste of money” for patients who are close to death.

Alex Schadenberg [Executive Dir, Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition] who attended the conference, said the Client Support Program is a “key component of Compassion and Choices’ structure”. Compassion and Choices tries to sell themselves as a group oriented to “more choices”, not to assisted suicide per se,” said Schadenberg. “But in practice, the choice they actually give support for is suicide.”

The group that sponsored the conference, Canada’s Dying with Dignity, also has a Client Support Program that received $177,800 from the Trillium foundation. The Canadian group’s program, also called the Client Support Program, was coached by Compassion and Choices and their staff and volunteers receive the same training as their US counterparts.

Ontario’s Trillium Foundation, one of Canada’s largest philanthropic foundations, sponsors a number of groups and events including the Toronto Gay Pride Week activities, and Toronto’s annual Women’s Health Conference at which local school children are given contraceptives and attend panels on various sexual techniques.

The Toronto conference, sponsored by Dying with Dignity, Canada’s largest right to die organization, and the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, featured speakers and representatives from groups around the world, with about 220 attendees. Most organizations represented engage in a range of activities from direct client involvement to lobbying governments for legalization.

Related : Independent Inquiry Demanded for Funding of Toronto Pro-Euthanasia Group

[White, Toronto, 19Sept06]