A 3D-printed coffin-like pod designed to carry out assisted suicide may soon be legally available in Switzerland.
Assisted suicide is legal in several countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and Switzerland. Still, some of their neighbours use other techniques like passive euthanasia or withdrawal of life-sustaining care under certain conditions. In most countries where physician-assisted suicides are allowed, the patient must be suffering from an incurable or fatal illness.
The Sarco machine, a suicide pod, has cleared legal inspection in the country and might be operational as early as next year. The Sarco machine was invented by Exit International, an international nonprofit organisation that advocates for voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide.
In Switzerland, there are few legal barriers to physician-assisted suicide, and it has become a widespread practice, with hundreds of people choosing to end their lives this way annually. According to Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International, although most assisted suicides require liquid sodium pentobarbital, this pill enables users with a peaceful death without the use of controlled drugs.
“The person will get into the capsule and lie down. It’s very comfortable. They will be asked several questions, and when they have answered, they may press the button inside the capsule activating the mechanism in their own time,” Nitschke said in an interview.
Furthermore, Nitschke claims that the death capsule is “activated from the inside by the person intending to die” and maybe towed anywhere, including “an idyllic outdoor setting or in the premises of an assisted suicide organisation, for example.”
The pod will then begin the process of pumping the interior with nitrogen, reducing the oxygen content from 21% to 1%, according to Nitschke. He said the patient would feel disoriented and slightly euphoric before losing consciousness.
“The whole thing takes about 30 seconds. Death occurs through hypoxia and hypocapnia, oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, respectively. There is no panic, no choking feeling,” he said.
In the future, the company wants to integrate artificial intelligence into a screening system to identify a user’s mental ability. According to the organisation, the main goal is to “remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves.”
Nitschke stated that two prototypes had been developed thus far, with a third expected to be completed in Switzerland by next year.