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Quick and painless death: Switzerland recognized the legal capsule for suicides

In Switzerland, an eye-blinking suicide machine has generated a lot of controversy, INDEPENDENT reports.

Photo: Shutterstock

Sarco's capsule faced resistance from opponents of euthanasia, in part because of the method used.

According to its creators, the coffin-shaped suicide capsule has undergone legal due diligence in Switzerland.

Sarco can be operated from the inside - by simply blinking if the person is suffering from isolation syndrome - and works by reducing the oxygen level in the capsule to below a critical level.

This process takes less than a minute, and death occurs due to hypoxia and hypocapnia, which allows a person to die relatively peacefully and painlessly.

Suicide assistance is legal in Switzerland, and about 1300 people benefited from the services of the euthanasia organizations Dignitas and Exit last year.

Both firms use ingested liquid barbiturate to induce deep coma within two to five minutes, followed by death.

The Suicide Machine was created by Dr. Philip Nitschke, nicknamed "Doctor Death", who is the director of the non-profit organization Exit International (has nothing to do with Exit).

Sarco - short for sarcophagus - is designed to be transported to the user's preferred location, such as an idyllic natural setting, and then the biodegradable capsule can detach from the base and serve as a coffin.

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Dr. Nitschke faced resistance from opponents of euthanasia, in part because of the method used.

“Gas may never be an acceptable method of assisting suicide in Europe due to the negative connotations of the Holocaust,” Dr. Nitschke said in a 2018 interview. "Some even said it was just a gas chamber."

It has also garnered criticism for its futuristic design, which some say praises suicide, and its associated virtual reality app that allows people to "experience their own virtual death."

This virtual reality experience was showcased at the Westerkerk Church in Amsterdam for Funeral Expo 2018, raising concerns among the church council.

“Westerkerk will never offer equipment like Dr. Nitschke does, and we seriously question whether this contributes to a thorough and in-depth discussion of the issue,” said Jeroen Kramer, president of the Westerkerk church council at the time. "We will not and cannot support any proposal for the use of such equipment."

Currently there are only two Sarco prototypes, but Exit International is 3D printing a third machine that will be ready for use in Switzerland next year.

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Dr. Nitschke told local media last week that "there are no legal issues" and that negotiations are under way in Switzerland with various groups to provide a capsule for assisting suicide.

“Barring any unforeseen difficulties, we hope to be ready to make Sarco available for use in Switzerland next year,” he said. "So far, it was a very expensive project, but we think that now it is quite close to implementation."

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