UPDATE, 12/18/2021: Some sources are saying that Switzerland has not officially approved the use of the Sarco machine and that it was all a ‘publicity stunt’ for its creator. While it appears the machine will still be available for use, it falls outside of the jurisdiction of Swiss law, and therefore, can be used due to an apparent loophole.
According to Snopes, an investigation by a Swiss media outlet found no evidence of approval from the Swiss government in regards to the Sarco machine, and Nitschke has refused to give details of the legal opinion from the government. Two assisted suicide organizations in Switzerland, EXIT and Dignitas, both said they would not be using the Sarco machine. A different organization, Pegasos, appears to be the one Nitschke will be working with to use Sarco.
Alex Schadenberg, international chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, indicated that, while Sarco is real, the notion of Swiss approval of the machine was a publicity stunt for Nitschke. “Snopes is right when it states that Sarco falls outside of Swiss law,” he wrote. “Nitschke has once again gained international attention and free advertising from the media for his suicide business. As Paul Russell said a few years ago in his article about Nitschke – ‘It’s a business after all.'”
12/8/2021: A death machine dreamed up by an assisted suicide advocate in 2018 appears to now be a reality in Switzerland. The Sarco machine, short for “sarcophagus,” was developed by Exit International and has cleared legal review, meaning it could start operating as soon as next year.
Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke designed the Sarco machine to be easily available — it is able to be created using a 3D-printer — and even comes with its own coffin. In 2018, Nitschke put the designs for Sarco online, so that anyone could view the plans and make their own. It is activated from the inside, can be placed anywhere and, allegedly, offers a painless death.
“The capsule is sitting on a piece of equipment that will flood the interior with nitrogen, rapidly reducing the oxygen level to 1 per cent from 21 per cent in about 30 seconds,” Nitschke told SwissInfo. “The person will feel a little disoriented and may feel slightly euphoric before they lose consciousness. Death takes place through hypoxia and hypocapnia, oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, respectively. There is no panic, no choking feeling.”
Of course, the notion of experimenting on suicidal people while promising a painless death has been an abject failure so far.
Nitschke further added that this is not, technically speaking, the first Sarco device to be created. “The first Sarco is being displayed at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel, Germany, from September 2021 to August 2022,” he said. “The second turned out not to be aesthetically pleasing. For that and various other reasons it’s not the best one to use.”
But that wasn’t Nitschke’s only problem; he also wants to get doctors out of the business of suicide.
“Currently a doctor or doctors need to be involved to prescribe the sodium pentobarbital and to confirm the person’s mental capacity,” he continued. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves … our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco.”
Nitschke couldn’t make it clearer that assisted suicide advocacy has nothing to do with avoiding pain in dying, and everything to do with making it easier for a person to die. Nitschke has previously advocated for healthy people to die, saying that in Switzerland, the laws allow people who are “tired of life” to easily be killed by a doctor. Typically, these people are elderly, and therefore are treated as disposable by the world at large. A young, able-bodied person who is tired of life and wants to die is given suicide prevention treatment while an elderly, disabled, or sick person is encouraged to consider it.
One woman, whose father was helped to die by Nitschke, confronted him and made it clear how deadly the consequences of his advocacy are. The woman’s father was not ill, but was suffering from depression. He reached out to Nitschke, who gave him advice on how to kill himself. “There are young people who have died, people with depression. It’s wrong, it’s totally irresponsible, he’s a doctor, it’s wrong,” she said. “Apologise for what happened to my father! The information you put out kills people who are not in a rational state of mind to make that decision.”
Should Switzerland allow Nitschke to use Sarco, there will undoubtedly be many more victims encouraged to die in the future while padding Nitschke’s pockets in the process.
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