Euthanasia Activist Unveils 'Suicide Machine' That's Also a Coffin

The Sarco "suicide machine" invented by Philip Nitschke. |

A "suicide pod" designed by a longtime euthanasia activist is supposed to kill users within seconds and double as a coffin.

The machine was unveiled Saturday at a yearly funeral show in Amsterdam.

Advocates who fight laws allowing for assisted suicide describe it as a mere "stunt" from a man who hungers for media attention.

Over the weekend Australian doctor and euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke, who reportedly considers himself the "Elon Musk of assisted suicide", showed off his "Sarco," short for sarcophagus, invention at an Amsterdam funeral show which attracted thousands, reports say.

Nitschke's Sarco suicide machine has a biodegradable, detachable coffin that is mounted on a stand containing a nitrogen canister; he made the machine with Dutch designer Alexander Bannink.

"The person who wants to die presses the button and the capsule is filled with nitrogen. He or she will feel a bit dizzy but will then rapidly lose consciousness and die," Nitschke said, according to Agence France-Presse Saturday.

The Sarco was made specifically "to provide people with a death when they wish to die," he said.

Others were not so amused.

"This is a typical Nitschke stunt," said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a secular national disability rights group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia based on social justice concerns, in an email statement to The Christian Post Tuesday.

"This showy and bizarre device gets him the media attention he craves. He gets less attention than he used to, even from other euthanasia proponents, due — at least in part — to the fact that he doesn't care who commits suicide or their reasons for doing so. His role in the debate has evolved to the point he's a carnival sideshow."

When asked about the legal issues surrounding euthanasia, the Australian euthanasia proponent noted that in many nations suicide is not against the law but helping someone commit the act is. He maintains his contraption is different because it involves one person choosing "to press a button ... rather than for instance standing in front of a train."

"I believe it's a fundamental human right [to choose when to die]. It's not just some medical privilege for the very sick. If you've got the precious gift of life, you should be able to give that gift away at the time of your choosing," Nitschke said.

This funeral fair occurs annually at Westerkerk in Amsterdam, a Dutch Reformed cathedral.

When the button is pressed on the Sarco machine, the capsule is filled with nitrogen, bringing about a hypoxic death to the occupant that occurs within seconds. Nitschke says that death comes "without discomfort," aware of the opposition to his methods particularly given the horrors of recent history.

"Gas may never be an acceptable method for assisted suicide in Europe due to the negative connotations of the Holocaust," Nitschke said, the Independent (UK) reported Tuesday. 

"Some have even said that it's just a glorified gas chamber."

The Australian is also the director of Exit International, a non-profit group formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Research Foundation. Nitschke has been considering his own exit from the world, according to a December Newsweek interview.

"I've thought about it a lot lately," he said. "I am attracted to the idea of the Sarco, and if I find myself in a situation where I need to use it, I will."

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