Merja Soisaari-Turriago is the Secretary of EXITUS ry. Here we talk about her background, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g., geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?
Merja Soisaari-Turriago: I was born in Turku, Finland and naturally my mother tongue was Finnish. In my childhood I also heard a lot of Swedish Turku/Åbo being a very bilingual city.
I was born as an atheist. Religious issues just never interested me. Religion was taught at school, but my thoughts were elsewhere. Also at home religion was not an issue.
My Father was a medical doctor and my Mother a house wife. I went to a normal high school in Turku and studied at the same time music at the Conservatory in Turku with piano as my main instrument.
During my high school years, I spent one year in Ann Arbor, USA studying at the Michigan University Music Department. After my graduation in Finland, I left for London to study Music.
By then I had realized that my main line with my instrument was accompanying and chamber music. After London I still studied in Vienna at the Academy of Music and also worked as a correpetitor at Baden bei Wien Theater.
After my studies I worked in my field at the University of Jyväskylä. I have one son, whose is also a pianist like my husband as well. We have three grandchildren.
Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?
Soisaari-Turriago: I think that in the previous “chapter” you got an idea of my education. My self-education has concentrated in learning languages.
After school I have learnt Spanish due to the fact that my husband is Colombian. We also speak different languages at home every day: English. German, Spanish, Finnish.
Jacobsen: What is a living will? Why is it important?
Soisaari-Turriago: I think that living will is extremely important. I have made one. But so far, if I say that I wish to have euthanasia, it is not possible, due to the lack of law.
A “living will” can be filed into your health files. I have said in my own living will, that, if euthanasia should be legalized I want to have it applied in my case, if need be.
Jacobsen: As the Secretary of EXITUS ry, what tasks and responsibilities come with this position?
Soisaari-Turriago: Too many bureaucratic tasks: keeping the registration in order, minutes of the meetings, bank issues, international connections, giving people information f.eg. of the Dignitas Association in Switzerland etc.
Jacobsen: As EXITUS ry is an independent association, why is this independence important in the work of advocating for the adoption of an active euthanasia law in Finland?
Soisaari-Turriago: In Finland I don´t see any alternative for the society being something other than independent. We could not possibly have any state or community connection. We are fighting for something that so far does not exit.
Jacobsen: What are some of the difficulties faced by EXITUS ry?
Soisaari-Turriago: Money is number one. The membership fee is very low, at the moment 20 euros. Yet we need to organize lecturers, discussion panels, send information etc. The members of the government work for free, only the trips are paid.
Jacobsen: Why is the adoption of an active euthanasia law in Finland difficult, even in the current period?
Soisaari-Turriago: Many. Above all the medical doctors´ union. One can count with the fingers of one hand the doctors who publicly stand for euthanasia.
There are of course many doctors who support euthanasia, but they stay in the closet. This is very unfortunate. If we compare the process of legalizing euthanasia for example in Belgium, the whole process actually started with the doctors in connection with the development of palliative care.
And the same in Colombia. Religion is another issue. We have a state church and there are also some suspicious religious sects, especially in the North of Finland. As you probably know, there was a citizens´ initiative of euthanasia that made its way to the parliament.
It seemed that it possibly would go through, but then some parliament members “turned their jacket”. The citizens´ initiative received the appointed amount of votes in no time. So where is the democracy?
Jacobsen: How can people, nationally or internationally, become involved in and help with the efforts of EXITUS ry?
Soisaari-Turriago: By getting us some more money and joining us.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?
Soisaari-Turriago: Just yesterday I received a message from Sweden proposing a Nordic meeting in Stockholm next fall to advance co-operation in Scandinavia. An improvement.
The WFoRtD is an active world organization, but they also need more money in keeping a worldwide cooperation going.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Merja.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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