Fundamental doubts about suicide capsule of Dr Death


Central Europe


Dr Nitschke sitting in his own invention. Still from video Exit International

Less than a week after the suicide machine seemed to be legalised in Switzerland, the first doubts were raised about using this product. Both advocates of euthanasia and opponents seem to reject the invention of Dr Philip Nitschke.

Exit International, the organisation of Dr Nitschke, designed the so-called Sarco. Last week, it became clear that there are “no legal obstacles” against the suicide machine, as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported. The newspaper adds that this does not mean that the product is really “approved”. In the end, a judge must decide whether the use of the machine falls within the boundaries of the law.

The developer Dr Philip Nitschke has worked for years on a means to ‘organise’ your death (or suicide) in a dignified way, without other people around you. The Sarco is a product that is made by a 3D printer. From the outside, it looks like a small sports car that takes you for your last ‘trip’.

Sarco is like a Tesla

The idea is that it is not the physical product itself that must be sold and transported worldwide. It is only a package of bits and bytes for the 3D printer. Because of this, the NZZ speaks of “the Tesla of the euthanasia”. You can build the machine on your own.

Artist's impression of the suicide machine. Photo Exit International

As soon as you push the “Go” button, liquid nitrogen will flow on the floor, making the oxygen disappear. Within 90 seconds, the person will get unconscious and die within 10 minutes, according to Exit International. The dying process is painless and peaceful. That is entirely different from using the toxins’ cocktail used for assisted suicide so far.

Dr Nitschke wants to use the Sarco from next year onwards. However, it is not clear whether the three so-called suicide clinics in Switzerland are willing to use the capsule.

The path of self-determination

In Norway, Lutheran bishop Halvor Nordhaug says that this machine shows “how far it can go if you take the path of self-determination”, newspaper Vart Land writes. “After this, it is very difficult to stop the development”, according to the bishop from Bjørgvin.

Also, the chairman of the Association for a Dignified Death in Norway, Olav Weyergang-Nielsen, says in the same article in Vart Land that he does “not want” the unrestricted use of the machine. Most people want to die with their loved ones, “preferably by holding one’s hand”, he says. “You cannot do that in a capsule.”

The Sarco makes it necessary to die alone. But that’s precisely what self-determination in the extreme means, says the bishop. “Absolute self-determination ends in loneliness.”

Ignorance of the sanctity of life

In Sweden, the Roman Catholic organisation Respekt sends an alarm about the product. In the daily Dagen, Benedicta Lindberg says that this invention “will not contribute to the zero vision for suicide”, she says. Above that, it “shows a total ignorance of the sanctity of life.”

Last week, 34 Christian leaders from Sweden called for a more constitutional guarantee for the right of life. Self-determination is “a myth”, as they said. Apart from this, 40 per cent of Swedish doctors are in favour of euthanasia.

Supplier can be prosecuted

Liquid nitrogen is free available in most countries. But the Public Prosecutor in the Netherlands said in 2017, in the context of Dr Nitschke’s plan, that does not mean that you can use that for killing. “If the supplier knows that it is being purchased by someone to end his or her life, that supplier is at risk of being prosecuted for assisted suicide”, a spokesperson said in the TV program Nieuwsuur. So, also in the Netherlands, the use of nitrogen and the Nitschke machine could be brought before the court.

A 3D-printed version of Sarco. Still from video Exit International

The machine is well illustrated in several videos on Exit’s website. Nitschke says he is happy with the model. People don’t have to go to the doctor in Switzerland first to determine whether they are qualified to receive some ‘medicine’. With Sarco, it will not be necessary to have a doctor present. The person can act on his own.



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