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High-tech Way to End One's Life

05 December 2017
The Sarco, invented by Dr. Philip Nitschke, is a high-tech assisted-suicide machine. Image credit: Exit International.

It's OK with Philip Nitschke if you kill yourself.

That is to say, Dr. Nitschke, the founder of Australian right-to-die group Exit International, has invented a euthanasia machine that could be used to find what his group calls a "peaceful" way to shake off the mortal coil — and to do it in just about the most high-tech way you could imagine.

According to Newsweek, Nitschke considers himself "the Elon Musk of suicide." And from the looks of the new invention, it's an apt nickname.

The Sarco, which one can only assume takes its name from the sarcophagus stone coffin used in ancient times, is a futuristic-looking pod that a person can comfortably fit into. Once inside, a user presses a button and the translucent chamber fills up with liquid nitrogen — bringing the oxygen level down to about five percent. This leads to unconsciousness around the one-minute mark, with a relatively painless death to follow shortly thereafter.

The chamber, which sets atop a reusable base, also doubles as a coffin. And the entire machine is 3D-printable.

Nitschke's plan for the machine is to make it open-source, so that anyone with the technological capability can download and print their own — at least once they've filled out a mental-fitness questionnaire and received a four-digit access code.

“Sarco does not use any restricted drugs or require any special expertise such as the insertion of an intravenous needle,” Nitschke says. “Anyone who can pass the entry test can enter the machine and legally end their life.”

Before you make out your last will and testament, though, note that the machine is not yet legal in Nitschke's home country. The state of Victoria, Australia's most populous, has only within the past week legalized voluntary euthanasia — specifically for those with a maximum of six months to live who are suffering unbearable pain. It's only designed to cover residents of Victoria, and the law does not go into effect until mid-2019.

Still, Newsweek says that the Sarco is scheduled to become widely available next year, and that Nitschke is already in talks with some suicide clinics in Switzerland to license it. And according to AlterNet, assisted suicide is now legal in several countries, and in several U.S. states.

As big ideas go, this could be just the start. Or perhaps a more accurate description would be the end.

To contact the author of this article, email tony.pallone@ieeeglobalspec.com


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