TRIGGER WARNING: THE ARTICLE BELOW DISCUSSES SUICIDE AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR SOME READERS
A Suicide Machine?
The controversial topic of assisted suicide is a difficult one to approach, but there are changes in the space being made. Switzerland is one of the few countries that allow this option and a new 3-D printed pod has been developed which can apparently end a user’s life within minutes. The technological coffin is called the “Sarco” and is set to begin trials in early 2022, according to creator Philip Nitschke. This is an interesting development from the current assisted suicide method used in Switzerland, which is by liquid consumption. The Sarco functions by filling the capsule with nitrogen gas, which drastically lowers oxygen levels. The user is unconscious within a minute, and then dies of oxygen deprivation while sleeping.
Is this Legal?
There are ongoing heated legal debates over if the Sarco is allowed or not by law. Daniel Huerlimann is a legal expert and assistant professor at the University of St.Gallen, and when asked about Sarco said that it “did not constitute a medical device” and thus would not be considered under the Swiss Therapeutic Products Act. Additionally, the product would not be flagged under the various laws governing use of nitrogen, weapons, or product safety meaning that Sarco is not covered by Swiss Law and should be allowed. Many others have problems with the glamorization of suicide and death, arguing that it cold lead to suicide contagion – when hearing about suicide leads to more people dying that way. Many worry that a machine that potentially glamorizes suicide with a sleek design and the planned publication of 3-d printing instructions would lead to this unfortunate phenomenon.
The topic of assisted suicide is an extremely difficult topic to approach. There are many legal discussion going on by location, with assisted suicide being legal for select adults in certain states of the US, and depending on the medical condition of the adults. Belgium and the Netherlands both permit assisted suicide for patients with unbearable suffering, but Switzerland has no such requirements, explaining why the Sarco is being developed in Switzerland. Nitschke says the purpose of Sarco is to let the patient decide more for themselves as opposed to medical establishments, and have control over their last moments.