The Sarco Pod Promises a Humane Death within 5 to 10 Minutes reports De Volkskrant.
The Sarco is viewed intently at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Dutch Society for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE).
Without hesitation, he stretches out on the black cushions of the Sarco Pod, a futuristic machine some call a suicide coffin. The man folds his hands solemnly over his abdomen. Then the lid closes. Is this it, then?
No, he does not press the red blinking button to start the process by which nitrogen is added to the airtight capsule and the oxygen content drops from 21 to 1 percent within 30 seconds. Nor can he, because this is a demonstration model.
Then he knocks on the window – he wants out. ‘I found it terrifying,’ says Berd Stapelkamp (75) a moment later.
‘I’m claustrophobic and wanted to know what it’s like to lie in it. As a challenge. With a chuckle, “I didn’t know how fast to get out again!
‘My life, my end’
Stapelkamp is a longtime member of the Dutch Association for a Voluntary End of Life (NVVE), which celebrates its 50th anniversary Friday. In the halls of Gooiland in Hilversum, there will be lectures on living wills, a conversation about death in 2073 (when the NVVE celebrates its 100th anniversary) and a theater play about euthanasia titled “My life, my end!
The Sarco Pod is also part of the program and is gleaming in the main hall. The audience – without exception graying or balding – shuffles around it in fascination. Despite his claustrophobic experience, Stapelkamp is enthusiastic about the device, which promises a peaceful death within five to 10 minutes.
‘For a certain category of people who can’t get euthanasia and don’t want to resort to gruesome methods, this is a wonderful solution,’ he says. ‘It’s painless, there are no cumbersome procedures ánd you don’t have to burden others with it. They just have to lift you out.’
Although Stapelkamp is still in good health, he is actively dealing with the ever-approaching death. He dislikes the prospect of decay; he wants to be able to decide for himself when he dies. ‘The other day I met my new family doctor.
My first question was: how do you feel about euthanasia?
At home, he already has the drugs lying around, should a doctor still fail.
‘Middel X,’ he says, referring to the chemical promoted by the Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW) as a humane means of suicide. That idea gives peace of mind, he says.
‘One of the options’
Not everyone is so well prepared on this day, but almost all those present, especially from the baby boomer generation, share the belief that they may decide their own end, in complete autonomy.
‘They grew up with the idea of being the master of their own belly,’ says NVVE chairman Fransien van ter Beek. ‘And now they want an end of life in their own control.’
Many here have a similar experience: they have seen friends or family die in a terrible way and want to prevent that themselves. ‘I’ve seen up close how someone stopped eating and drinking,’ says Annie Mets (66). ‘That’s horrible. It can take a few weeks.’
She has been a member for 10 years and is seeing the Sarco for the first time. ‘I see it as one of the options, yes, should it come to that.’
Philip Nitschke, the Australian inventor of the Sarco, watches people react to his creation. ‘When I suggested the idea in Switzerland a few years ago, someone said to me: no one in Europe will use a device that will kill you by gas. The association with the Holocaust would be too strong. That doesn’t seem to be so bad after all.
Nitschke (75) emigrated to the Netherlands in 2015, the country where he says there is the most progressive thinking about the end of life. Since then, he has been fighting for more information about self-chosen death. He sells a very popular handbook describing methods of suicide and collects documentation on the subject worldwide.
The Sarco Pod Promises a Humane Death within 5 to 10 Minutes
Since he launched the Sarco as a concept in 2017, he says he receives a daily request from someone around the world to use the device. The plastic sarcophagus should eventually be able to be 3D printed by anyone who wants it. Nitschke: “We put the software online for free. There is also no patent on the design. I have no commercial motive whatsoever.’
The third prototype was made in Rotterdam by Iranian designer Javid Jooshesh. ‘We will test on Monday whether everything works,’ says Nitschke. ‘We measure how the oxygen content goes back. And we measure the temperature, pure nitrogen is very cold. It should feel like a cool breeze. I also lie down in it myself – with oxygen in my nose – to experience the sensation.’
It’s an end he says is similar to death when cabin pressure suddenly drops on an airplane and you don’t grab the oxygen mask fast enough. ‘From people who have survived that, we know it gives a slightly euphoric and confused feeling. It doesn’t feel like suffocation. You just fall away.
He plans to test the device on people in Switzerland. There, there is no ban on assisted suicide, as there is in the Netherlands. ‘
We think it should succeed legally, hopefully this year. All you have to do as a patient is answer three questions to determine your presence of mind. Who are you? Where are you? And do you know what happens when you push the red button?’
After that, Nitschke says. ‘You can place the Sarco anywhere, for example overlooking Lake Geneva. You lie down, close the flap, wave a bit more and then press the button.