A 3D-printed “suicide capsule” – Sarco pods (short for sarcophagus )- created by Dr. Philip Nitschke has passed a legal review in Switzerland. It could be put into use in the country’s legal assisted suicide clinics. With his capsule, Sarco did not break any regulations governing medical products, narcotics, dangerous chemicals or weapons and will be ready for users next year. The Sarco capsule can only be operated from the inside. Users will be able to press a button, blink or gesture to release nitrogen gas that induces a state of hypoxia and finally death. The oxygen level inside is quickly reduced from 21 per cent to one per cent. It also features an emergency stop button and an escape hatch. The person will feel a little bit disoriented and/or euphoric before they lose consciousness. After death, the pod can be used as a coffin. “The benefit for the person who uses it is that they don’t have to get any permission, they don’t need some special doctor to try and get a needle in, and they don’t need to get difficult drugs,” Nitschke said in a Sarco demonstration last year.
Dr Nitschke, a native Australian, in 1996, became the first medical doctor to legally administer a voluntary lethal injection using a self-designed machine. “It really is about democratising the dying process. We consider it a right for all rational adults to be able to divest themselves of their life, it is not just some privilege decided by others that can be granted to the very sick”, Dr Nitschke declared at that time. “Our aim is to develop an artificial intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity. Naturally there is a lot of scepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists. But our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco,” he said now. Assisted suicide is also legal in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Canada.