C: Exit International

‘Glorified Gas Chamber’: Controversial ‘suicide pod’ is approved in Switzerland

A coffin-shaped ‘suicide pod’ allowing occupants to kill themselves has passed legal review in Switzerland, according to its creators. The decision was met with a furious backlash this week, with opponents arguing the pod ‘glamorises suicide’ and is the equivalent of a ‘glorified gas chamber,’ according to The Independent. 

According to the Australian company who created the pods, the pod offers people a “painless death” by assisted suicide. The 3D-printed pod may be available soon to residents of Switzerland, where 1,300 people died of assisted suicide in 2020.

While the controversial invention has been welcomed by advocates of euthanasia, it has been termed “the slipperiest of slopes” in the eyes of others who are concerned about the impact the pods will have. One user took to Twitter to describe the approval of the pods to “the return of the gas chambers” used in Nazi Germany. The pod was created by an organisation called Exit International, a company which offers an assisted suicide service. 

 

The pod is called the “Sarco machine” and presently, only two Sarco prototypes exist in Switzerland, but creators say they are working on 3D printing the third machine so it can be used as early as next year.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and is conducted with the ingestion of a liquid called sodium pentobarbital. However, Exit International plans to offer another option; one, which in the view of critics, is hugely disturbing.

 

Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International, told local media outlet the Swiss Info that the pod fills the inside of the coffin-shaped capsule with nitrogen before slowly reducing the oxygen levels to 1 per cent. According to Nitschke, the process takes less than 30 seconds and the person about to take their own life will feel disoriented before becoming unconscious. 

“The whole thing takes about 30 seconds. Death takes place through hypoxia and hypocapnia, oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, respectively. There is no panic, no choking feeling,” Nitschke told Swiss Info.

“The person will get into the capsule and lie down. It’s very comfortable. They will be asked a number of questions and when they have answered, they may press the button inside the capsule activating the mechanism in their own time,” Nitschke said.

Swiss Info reported that the pod had passed legal reviews and is due to start operations sometime next year. Nitschke said: “Barring any unforeseen difficulties, we hope to be ready to make Sarco available for use in Switzerland next year.”

Nitschke added the pod offers users a peaceful death and can be transported to whichever town, “idyllic setting” or location is desired. 

However, many were not convinced. Some people took to Twitter to denounce the Australian-made pods.

 

One user described the approval of the deadly pods as “such a paradox for the world’s richest country” while another said the news was “sickening”.

 

“Who needs Covid to reduce the pop[ulation]? Switzerland does it with “assisted suicide”. Crazy, new age, & retrogression to the old Nazi gas chambers. At a minimum, it’s a desperate humanity trying to come to terms with a Godless world that it has tried to create,” another tweet decrying the pods read.

 

The pods can be activated by the user by simply blinking, according to reports. To qualify for use of the machines, a person must answer an online survey to provide evidence they are making the decision to end their own life of their own will. An access code is then needed in order to get the pod to work.

Once the user is inside, they will have to answer pre-recorded questions and press a button that triggers the fatal process. Speaking at a demonstration last year, Nitschke said the pod delivers a level of autonomy and control for the patient and can be created using a 3D printer at a cost of between $4000 and $8000.  

In Switzerland, active euthanasia is illegal, but assisted suicide is permitted. Euthanasia – the act of intentionally ending a life to relieve suffering – is legal in Belgium, Germany, Canada, Luxembourg, Colombia and the Netherlands.

 

While active euthanasia (for instance, a doctor administering a lethal injection) remains illegal in Switzerland, supplying the means for committing suicide is legal if the action which directly causes death is performed by the person who is wishing to die. 

In Ireland, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are currently illegal. However, in October 2020,the Dáil voted to pass the “Dying with Dignity Bill 2020”. The proposed legislation has been met with controversy from disability rights and pro-life campaigners, and would allow medical professionals to enable some terminally ill patients to take their own lives. If it becomes law, Ireland would follow a small number of countries around the world in legalising the practise.

Opponents of the move to legalise assisted suicide In include Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Ireland’s largest provider of specialist palliative care services. The care provider says it “does not support the assisted dying bill or assisted suicide and welcomes public debate on the subject”. Instead, it advocates for “better advanced care planning and additional supports for those living with a terminal illness and those facing end of life, and for increased access to specialist palliative care so that pain and distress of patients and families can be comprehensively addressed.”

Palliative care specialists, who care for those at end of life and who say that almost all pain and distress can now be managed, are also strongly opposed.

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