A 3-D Printed Pod Inflames the Assisted Suicide Debate

A 3-D Printed Pod Inflames the Assisted Suicide Debate

The pod, known as Sarco, was conceived as a way for people to end their lives without involving a doctor. A plan to introduce it in Switzerland has raised alarm even among right-to-die advocates.

A Sarco prototype at Venice Design in 2019. Its inventor,Dr. Philip Nitschke, says it offers people a way to end their lives painlessly and without a doctor’s help, but some right-to-die supporters said they found it appalling.

For years, a sleek, pod-shaped suicide machine called Sarco has been a striking sight at museums and funeral conventions.

Now the creator of the pod is saying he is ready to take it beyond the showroom and make it available for 3-D printing next year in Switzerland, which has permissive laws on voluntary assisted suicide.

The announcement by the inventor, Dr. Philip Nitschke, has unsettled even some of the most ardent right-to-die advocates, inflaming the debate.

Dr. Nitschke, an Australian doctor who has been a supporter of assisted voluntary suicide for decades, said this month that he hoped to start sharing the 3-D printing program for the machine, which is designed to cause death as it fills with nitrogen, replacing the oxygen inside.


He said he was aiming to introduce it in Switzerland in early 2022 after a lawyer hired by his nonprofit organization, Exit International, found no conflict with Swiss law. But the announcement, which he made in interviews and on the organization’s website, added to a growing debate over whether the online distribution of suicide information and materials encourages people to end their own lives when they might not otherwise seek to do so.

Dr. Duckworth, who has pressed for safe laws emphasizing personal choice and control of the dying process, added that he could not support it, “nor am I aware of any credible assisted-dying campaigner who does.” Sarco, he said in an interview, would “deprive users of human connection and replace it with a lonely virtual-reality experience.”

He also raised concerns about safety. “What if it is accessed by someone not in their right mind?” he said. “Or a child? Or if it is used to abuse others? What if it doesn’t result in immediate or peaceful death and the individual is left alone without any recourse to call for help?”

Dr. Charles D. Blanke, an oncologist and a professor at the OHSU Knight Cancer Center in Portland, Ore., who has studied data on physician-assisted dying, said breathing in nitrogen causes a rapid death. But he cautioned that it is untested, including as an alternative to lethal injection in capital punishment.

“It is not at all clear that nitrogen inhalation would bring a peaceful death,” he said, contrary to Dr. Nitschke’s claim that death comes quickly after a brief euphoria.

The law in Switzerland, where about 1,300 people sought help from right-to-die organizations in 2020, requires confirmation that people seeking to end their own lives are of sound mind and reached the decision without pressure from anyone with “selfish” motives. Then a doctor writes a prescription for sodium pentobarbital, the lethal medication used there.

Sarco would bypass that step because it does not require a prescription for a drug.

Some Swiss right-to-die organizations have distanced themselves from Sarco. Exit, which offers living wills, counseling and end-of-life care, and is unaffiliated with Dr. Nitschke’s similarly named nonprofit, said it does not see Sarco as an alternative to physician-assisted suicide. Another group, Lifecircle, said “there is no human warmth with this method.”

Dignitas, a clinic near Zurich, said sodium pentobarbital “is approved and supported by the vast majority of the public and politics.” Pegasos Swiss Association said it was in discussion with the Sarco team but wanted further clarification about the device.

Others who have studied the ethics of voluntary assisted suicide welcomed the debate that Sarco has inspired. Thaddeus Pope, a bioethicist at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn., said the debate about Sarco could lead to a new way of looking at end-of-life options, including by legislators.

“That might be bigger or more important than the actual Sarco itself,” he said, adding that Dr. Nitschke was “illustrating the limitations of the medical model and forcing us to think.”

“There are a lot of people that live with illnesses or conditions that they don’t want to live with, but they don’t qualify for medically aided dying where they live,” he said. “If he really goes forward with it, this may get the nonmedical approach to hastening death some more attention.”

Dr. Nitschke, 74, has years of experience with assisted suicide. In the 1990s in Australia, he developed a machine that allowed his terminally ill patients to initiate their own deaths by administering a lethal medication with the touch of a computer key. This was the same era when Dr. Jack Kevorkian was promoting — and being prosecuted over — an assisted suicide device in the United States.

Dr. Nitschke said he was inspired to create Sarco by the death in 2012 of Tony Nicklinson, a British man who suffered from so-called locked-in syndrome and whose request for help in ending his life had been rejected by a panel of judges.

He said he had taken steps to ensure that anyone using Sarco would be doing so voluntarily. Users can initiate the nitrogen flow only after stating their name and where they are, and that they know what is about to happen. That process is filmed, he said, and a copy is provided to the coroner.

“You say goodbye to everybody and climb in,” Dr. Nitschke said. “The idea is you are going, and they are staying.”

Dr. Nitschke worked with designers in the Netherlands, where he lives, to produce a Sarco prototype in 2017 that has since been exhibited in museums and funeral fairs in Amsterdam and Venice.

A model is currently on display at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel, Germany, as part of a suicide exhibit. The curator, Tatjana Ahle, said most visitors were uncomfortable with the idea of using a futuristic pod for suicide.

She said they “seemed to feel that this was inappropriate and dangerously aestheticizing death and trivializing it in its scope.”

Suicide capsule ready for test phase in Switzerland

Suicide capsule ready for test phase in Switzerland

Trouw Newspaper – the Netherlands

People who want euthanasia in Switzerland could soon do so with a new method: they can take a seat in a 3-D printed capsule that, according to the maker, can painlessly end someone’s life in a few minutes.

Trials with the Sarco will start in early 2022, with real participants trying the device, Philip Nitschke, the maker of the capsule, told The Washington Post.

At the touch of a button, the capsule is filled with nitrogen gas, causing the oxygen content to drop rapidly.

The user becomes unconscious within a minute, experiences no distress, but dies from lack of oxygen after falling asleep.

Nitschke describes the capsule as a “stylish and elegant” way to die, as the user can choose where it will be placed.

A legal analysis, requested by Nitschke through his nonprofit Exit International, shows that the use of the capsule does not violate Swiss assisted suicide laws. According to those laws, anyone can assist in suicide, as long as it is not done for ‘selfish motives’. In addition, people must be mentally competent, which is usually determined by a psychiatrist. And they must ultimately take the final step that leads to their death.

The machine has also been criticized. Daniel Sulmasy, director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, says the almost luxury car-like design “glorifies suicide.” But Nitschke insists that use of the capsule is responsible. In fact, he likes Sarco so much that he will eventually use it himself.

In the works for years, a suicide machine will soon be tested in Switzerland

In the works for years, a suicide machine will soon be tested in Switzerland

By Julian Mark December 9, 2021 at 7:25 a.m. EST
 People wishing to end their lives in Switzerland — one of a handful of countries that give the option — could soon have access to a new method: a 3-D-printed pod that its creator says can painlessly end someone’s life in a matter of minutes.
Real-life participants will start trying the coffin-like “Sarco” during trials set to begin in early 2022, the capsule’s creator, Philip Nitschke, told The Washington Post this week.

A legal analysis commissioned by his nonprofit, Exit International, recently concluded that use of the pod will not violate Switzerland’s assisted suicide laws, he said.

At the push of a button, the pod becomes filled with nitrogen gas, which rapidly lowers oxygen levels, causing its user to fall unconscious within a minute, Nitschke said.

A person does not suffocate or experience distress, he said, but rather dies of oxygen deprivation after they’ve fallen asleep.

In theory, the capsule can be towed to a place of someone’s choosing, said Nitschke, who described the machine as a “stylish and elegant” way to die.
“It provides that sense of occasion by its look,” Nitschke said. “It looks good, and it’s a thing that I would like to get into.”

But since Nitschke introduced the concept four years ago, it has been met with varying degrees of bewilderment and condemnation, with some critics arguing the Sarco’s appearance is one of its biggest problems.

Daniel Sulmasy, the director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, said the capsule’s sleek, almost luxury-car-like design “glamorizes suicide.”

He also said he takes issue with Nitschke’s plan to post the 3-D printing instructions online, noting that it could lead to suicide contagion — a phenomenon in which hearing about suicide can lead to more people dying that way.
“That’s a real worry … that a machine like this glamorizes suicide and makes it easier for people who are vulnerable and mentally ill,” Sulmasy told The Post.

 Even those who support assisted suicide say they have concerns. In an opinion piece published this week in the Independent, Stephen Duckworth, a disability advocate who says he believes in the right to assisted dying, wrote that he is “appalled” by the Sarco.
“Safety should always be at the forefront of any efforts to enable greater choice at the end of life, and there are serious safety concerns here,” Duckworth wrote.

“What if it is accessed by someone not in their right mind? Or a child? Or if it is used to abuse others? What if it doesn’t result in immediate or peaceful death and the individual is left alone without any recourse to call for help? I could go on and on.”
Nitschke argues that the pod is safe and will deliver painless deaths — and he expects no surprises during the trials that will be held at a Swiss clinic for assisted suicide, using about a half-dozen volunteers. “We’ll be comfortable after we have the first few” successful trials, he said.
Responding to criticism about suicide contagion, Nitschke said Exit International will print the Sarco’s plans in a book his nonprofit distributes with methods on assisted dying, which is restricted to people over the age of 50 who are “of sound mind or seriously ill.”

“Not saying it will always protect everyone,” he said, “but we want the information freely available to rational adults.”
Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in only a handful of countries. In the United States, 10 states and the District of Columbia allow medically assisted suicide for terminally ill, mentally capable adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live, The Post reported.

In Colombia, where euthanasia has been decriminalized since 1997, officials abruptly halted the procedure of a woman suffering from a debilitating disease, arguing that her condition had improved too much for her to legally undergo the process, The Post reported in October.

She was ready to die. Now an 11th-hour decision by health officials has halted her euthanasia bid.

While countries like the Netherlands and Belgium permit assisted suicide for patients with unbearable physical or psychological suffering, Switzerland has no such requirements written into its law, according to the British Medical Association.
Per Swiss law, anyone can assist in a suicide, so long as it is not performed for “selfish motives,” meaning it is illegal to assist out of malice or for profit.

Moreover, people choosing to end their lives must be mentally competent — a determination typically made by a psychiatrist — and must ultimately initiate the final step leading to their deaths.
The law, in effect since the early ’40s, has allowed a handful of assisted suicide clinics to operate in the country, and has led to an increasing number of “suicide tourists” who visit the country to end their lives. “People come into Switzerland every day to die,” Nitschke said.

Those assisted suicides are typically administered via the injection of a barbiturate, prescribed by doctors, that will cause a person to lose consciousness and die relatively peacefully.

Yet many doctors are loath to prescribe the medication to people who are not sick, Nitschke said, and he argues that there are categories of people — such as elderly individuals who are “tired of life” — who want the assistance.
That is one of the reasons Nitschke has introduced the Sarco. Because the capsule does not administer drugs, it takes some of the decision-making power away from the medical establishment.
Daniel Hürlimann, a law professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, conducted the legal assessment for Exit International’s use of the Sarco.

He told The Post that while Swiss law “does not explicitly authorize the use of Sarco, it simply does not regulate it and thus does not prohibit it.” That assessment was good enough for Nitschke.

“It’s taken quite a while to get it into a final designed and manufactured form,” he said of the machine. “But we’ve done that now, and we’re at the stage now where it needs to be trialed.”

Nitschke said he likes Sarco so much he may ultimately use it himself, and added that death should not “be shrouded by misery and gloom” but rather a moment of “celebration.”
Sulmasy, the ethicist, sharply disagreed. “Death can sometimes be very welcome for people, but it should never be anything we celebrate,” he said.

“We’re always losing a unique, special human being, whenever any one of us dies.”

Sarco aims to take assisted dying out of doctors’ hands with AI & 3D printing

Sarco aims to take assisted dying out of doctors’ hands with AI & 3D printing

By Tom Bateman  •  Updated: 09/12/2021 – 12:48
A 3D-printed “suicide capsule” has passed a legal review in Switzerland, potentially clearing the way for the technology to be put into use in the country’s legal assisted suicide clinics.

The Sarco capsule’s creator, Dr. Philip Nitschke, told Euronews Next that his aim was to allow anyone to download the design and print it themselves.

In the future, an AI screening process will allow Nitschke’s assisted dying advocacy organisation, Exit International, to “demedicalise” the dying process by removing the need for medical professionals to be involved, he said.

He told Euronews Next that an Exit International-commissioned review carried out by Swiss legal academic Professor Daniel Hürlimann had confirmed that the Sarco did not break any regulations governing medical products, narcotics, dangerous chemicals or weapons.

The review also concluded that “assisting the suicide of a competent person by means of Sarco does not constitute an offence under the Criminal Code,” Hürlimann told Euronews Next via email.

“The review commissioned reassured us that there were no legal issues that we were missing and that – from a Swiss legal viewpoint – that is no problem either with the use of Sarco at a euthanasia clinic, or by a Swiss individual who wishes to print and use the machine themselves,” Nitschke said.

The organisation aims to offer the Sarco to users in Switzerland early next year.

What is Sarco?

The Sarco capsule can only be operated from the inside. Users will be able to press a button, blink or gesture to release nitrogen gas that induces a state of hypoxia and eventually, death.

Prototype versions of the Sarco have been exhibited at museums and art galleries in the Netherlands and GermanyExit International

It also features an emergency stop button and an escape hatch, according to a video featuring its designer Alexander Bannink.

Exit International does not plan to offer Sarco for sale, choosing instead to distribute the design to people who will have to 3D print it themselves, as well as working with assisted suicide clinics in Switzerland.

Providing the design alone could also help Exit International avoid legal trouble in the vast majority of countries where assisted suicide remains against the law.

“If you make something by hand, which we normally do, you can be held accountable because you are helping someone in dying,” Bannink said.

“Legal use of a machine we have produced is not possible in countries other than Switzerland,” said Nitschke.

Philip Nitschke – nicknamed ‘Dr Death’ – has advocated for assisted dying since the early 1990s

While in theory anyone could print the Sarco, Exit International will not provide the blueprints to anyone aged under 50 years old, and even once printed access to the capsule will remain restricted, according to information on the organisation’s website.

Democratising death

Nitschke has a long history of advocating for the right to die, even running for political office in his native Australia on a platform of euthanasia reform.

In 1996, he became the first medical doctor to legally administer a voluntary lethal injection, using a self-designed machine that allowed the man, a prostate cancer patient named Bob Dent, to press a button on a laptop by his bedside to deliver the drugs.

“The main issue is one of control,” Nitschke said. When Australia’s Northern Territory briefly legalised assisted dying from 1996 to 1997, the law still required a doctor to consent to the procedure.


“This caused problems, for example with couples who had been together all their lives, when one became sick and their partner said they wished to die at the same time,” Nitschke said.

“It really is about democratising the dying process. We consider it a right for all rational adults to be able to divest themselves of their life, it is not just some privilege decided by others that can be granted to the very sick”.

But Nitschke and Exit International’s direct approach has raised concerns among Switzerland’s big players in assisted suicide.

The non-profit organisation Dignitas told Euronews Next that it doubted the Sarco’s do-it-yourself method would find acceptance in Switzerland, which has a 35-year history of non-profits and doctors working together to help facilitate assisted suicides.

Established organisations also understand the legal framework of assisted dying in Switzerland, which required every death, voluntary or not, to be reported to the authorities for investigation, Dignitas said.

“This practice is approved, and supported by the vast majority of the public and politics,” the organisation said.

“In the light of this established, safe and professionally supported practice, we would not imagine that a technologised capsule for a self-determined end of life will meet much acceptance and/or interest in Switzerland”.

However, a 2017 report by UK campaign organisation Dignity in Dying found that following the established route might be out of reach for many, putting the average cost of an assisted death in Switzerland for a UK resident at almost €12,000.

Screening by software

In order to fully remove outside intervention from the assisted dying process, Nitschke has suggested in a recent interview with news site Swissinfo that Sarco would use AI to screen users before granting access to the capsule.

“Our aim is to develop an artificial intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity. Naturally there is a lot of scepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists. But our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco,” he said.

While assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, the current process requires the participation of medical professionals who prescribe the drugs used in the process and carry out psychological checks.

“The proposed AI review to remove this medical involvement is part of the next stage in the Sarco project,” Nitschke told Euronews Next.

‘A black box’

The potential involvement of artificial intelligence in Sarco has rung alarm bells at Algorithmwatch, a non-profit organisation that researches the impact of automation technologies.

“This clearly ignores the fact that technology itself is never neutral: It is developed, tested, deployed, and used by human beings, and in the case of so-called Artificial Intelligence systems, typically relies on data of the past,” said Algorithmwatch policy & advocacy lead Angela Müller.

“Relying on them, I fear, would rather undermine than enhance our autonomy, since the way they reach their decisions will not only be a black box to us but may also cement existing inequalities and biases,” she told Euronews Next.

It’s possible that the debate over AI will remain academic.

While Nitschke plans to make the Sarco capsule available in Switzerland next year, the software required will not be ready in time.

“In the early stages of Sarco use in Switzerland we will be ensuring that all people choosing this option have had a thorough review by Swiss medical professionals to remove any possible question over their capacity. We have the support of Swiss psychiatrists to provide this service,” he said.

“As the AI screening is further developed we hope to run dual testing of subjects using medical services and the AI software screen so that the efficacy of the AI program can be established,” he added.

Assisted suicide pod approved for use in Switzerland

Assisted suicide pod approved for use in Switzerland

“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.”

By Joseph Guzman

A 3D-printed, coffin-like pod developed to carry out assisted suicide may soon begin legally operating in Switzerland, according to local media reports. 

Assisted suicide is legal in some countries under certain circumstances, including in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Canada and Switzerland. Most countries where assisted suicide is legal require people to have an incurable or terminal illness. 

According to news outlet Swiss Info, a member of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the suicide pod, dubbed the Sarco machine, cleared legal review in the country and could start operating some time next year. 

The Sarco machine has been developed by international nonprofit organization Exit International, which advocates for voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. 

While assisted suicides in the country typically involve the ingestion of liquid sodium pentobarbital, the capsule offers users a peaceful death without the use of controlled substances, Philip Nitschke, found of Exit International, says. 

“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 told Swiss Info in an interview. 

Nitschke explained the pod will then start the process of flooding the inside with nitrogen, which will reduce the oxygen level from 21 percent to 1 percent. He said the person will feel disoriented and slightly euphoric before losing consciousness. 

“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,” he told the news outlet. 

The pod can be towed anywhere for the death, according to Nitschke, including “an idyllic outdoor setting or in the premises of an assisted-suicide organization, for example.” 

Exit International is hoping to eventually use artificial intelligence in a screening system to establish a user’s mental capacity. The organization says it wants to “remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves.” 

Nitschke said two prototypes have been developed so far with hopes for a third in Switzerland by next year. 

Assisted-Suicide Chamber Heads to Switzerland

Assisted-Suicide Chamber Heads to Switzerland

The chamber allows patients to kill themselves at the press of a button.

Switzerland is one of a handful of countries that supports physician-assisted suicide. However, one company wants to take the doctors out of the process and allow patients to kill themselves at the push of a button.

Exit International, a nonprofit dedicated to assisted suicide advocacy, has developed a 3D-printed suicide chamber dubbed Sarco, according the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

The capsule just recently cleared legal regulatory approval in Switzerland, and is set to launch in the country as soon as next year.

Sarco allows patients to lay comfortably inside. When they’re ready to die, they press a button that fills the chamber with nitrogen gas, resulting in what the nonprofit says will be a painless death via oxygen deprivation with 30 seconds.

“There is no panic, no choking feeling,” Dr. Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International, told the SBC.  

The chamber can be transported to different locations, too, allowing patients to choose where they might want to die — such as a beach, forest, or their own home.

While the thought of an honest-to-god suicide booth is fascinating in its own right — and evokes numerous touchpoints in popular culture — perhaps the most eyebrow-raising part is the company’s goal of de-medicalizing the suicide process.

In order to obtain a medically assisted suicide in Switzerland, you currently need to have a doctor confirm your mental capacity and then prescribe you liquid sodium pentobarbital, a drug can kill you in two to five minutes. 

However, Exit International wants to create an AI-powered online mental capacity test. If you “pass,” it gives you a code that allows you to access Sarco. That’s still in the conceptual stages, though.

“We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Nitschke told the broadcaster.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are still incredibly controversial issues. While some might bristle at the Sarco suicide capsule, it’ll give folks a new option to go out on their own terms — and, at the end of life, that’s a compelling concept.

Controversial Assisted Suicide Pod Cleared for Use in Switzerland

Controversial Assisted Suicide Pod Cleared for Use in Switzerland

The unit helps a patient painlessly end their life by flooding the chamber with nitrogen.
By Tom McKay

Assisted suicide booths, a longtime fixture of sci-fi, may soon be a thing in Switzerland. Swiss outlets report that the manufacturer of a 3D-printed assisted suicide pod called the Sarco capsule has received legal approval to be used by the public.

Switzerland has few legal barriers to physician-assisted suicide and it has become an accepted practice, with hundreds of people (most often those with a terminal illness) choosing to end their lives via that method each year.

Several other European countries, including Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands have similar policies in place, while some of their neighbors accept other practices such as passive euthanasia or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in certain circumstances.

In physician-assisted suicide, a patient chooses to die with the help of a medical professional, which often means simply writing a prescription for a lethal drug. During euthanasia, a medical provider uses active means to painlessly end a patient’s life, and passive euthanasia or withdrawal treatment both involve cessation of medical interventions that prolong the life of the patient.

According to SwissInfo, inventor Dr. Philip Nitschke of Australia-based international nonprofit Exit International says that the Sarco “death capsule” is “activated from the inside by the person intending to die” and can be towed anywhere, such as “an idyllic outdoor setting or in the premises of an assisted suicide organisation, for example.” He added that the device is designed with comfort in mind.

“The capsule is sitting on a piece of equipment that will flood the interior with nitrogen, rapidly reducing the oxygen level to 1 per cent from 21 per cent in about 30 seconds,” Nitschke told SwissInfo. “The person will feel a little disoriented and may feel slightly euphoric before they lose consciousness. Death takes place through hypoxia and hypocapnia, oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, respectively. There is no panic, no choking feeling.”

Nitschke added that death usually follows unconsciousness in such a setting after around five to ten minutes.

In 2020, he told the site, Exit International asked for “senior advice” on the legality of using the device in Switzerland by the country’s medical review board, and the organization recently learned there are no legal issues standing in the way of the device’s rollout.

The first and second prototypes are respectively on display in a museum and not “aesthetically pleasing,” Nitschke added, so “barring any unforeseen difficulties” the first operational unit won’t be rolled out (with the aid of a local organization) in Switzerland until 2022.

Some features, such as a camera necessary for communication and recording informed consent, still need to be implemented.

Nitschke told SwissInfo that, eventually, Exit International plans to develop ways for the process to be carried out without the requirement that a doctor be present for psychiatric review. 

“Our aim is to develop an artificial intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity,” Nitschke told the site. “Naturally there is a lot of skepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists. But our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco.”

Critics of the Sarco device say that it runs contradictory to medical ethics. Dr. Daniel Sumalsy, a professor of biomedical ethics at Georgetown University and opponent of assisted suicide, told Newsweek in 2017 that “it’s bad medicine, ethics, and bad public policy. It converts killing into a form of healing and doesn’t acknowledge that we can now do more for symptoms through palliative than ever before.”

In Switzerland, according to the Guardian, the law only prohibits physician-assisted suicide when it is done with self-motives, meaning that it is typically done with the assistance of non-profit organizations.

In 2020, the Daily Beast wrote, some 1,300 assisted suicides were carried out in Switzerland.

According to Business Insider, statistics show that from 2019 to 2020 in the Netherlands, euthanasia rates increased by 9% to 6,938 procedures.

Regional Euthanasia Review Committees chair Jeroen Recourt told Dutch paper Trouw such figures were “part of a larger development.

More and more generations see euthanasia as a solution for unbearable suffering.

But the thought that euthanasia is an option in the case of hopeless suffering is very reassuring.”

Sarco Passes Legal Review for Use in Switzerland

Sarco Passes Legal Review for Use in Switzerland

According to Swiss law experts, the Sarco suicide capsule ‘passes legal review’ in Switzerland.

A 3D-printed capsule, destined for use in assisted suicide, may legally be operated in Switzerland, according to advice obtained by Exit International, the organisation that developed the ‘Sarco’ machine.

Some 1,300 people died by assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2020 using the services of the country’s two largest assisted suicide organisations, Exit (no connection to Exit International) and Dignitas. The method currently in use is ingestion of liquid sodium pentobarbital.

After taking the drug, the person will fall asleep within two to five minutes before slipping into a deep coma, followed soon afterwards by death. Sarco offers a different approach for a peaceful death, without the need for controlled substances.

Sarco suicide capsule ‘passes legal review’ in Switzerland

The Interview

SWI swissinfo.ch spoke to Dr Philip Nitschke, founder of Australia-registered Exit International, about his innovation, the coffin-like Sarco capsule, and what place he expects it will have in the Swiss assisted dying sector.

SWI swissinfo.ch: What is Sarco and how does it work?

Philip Nitschke: It’s a 3-D printed capsule, activated from the inside by the person intending to die. The machine can be towed anywhere for the death. It can be in an idyllic outdoor setting or in the premises of an assisted suicide organisation, for example.

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.

The capsule is sitting on a piece of equipment that will flood the interior with nitrogen, rapidly reducing the oxygen level to 1 per cent from 21 per cent. The person will feel a little disoriented and may feel slightly euphoric before they lose consciousness. 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.

SWI swissinfo.ch: What stage are you at in developing the machine and making it available for use?

P.N.: Last year, we sought senior advice on the legality of using Sarco in Switzerland for assisted dying and were pleased when the Sarco suicide capsule ‘passes legal review’ in Switzerland. This review has been completed and we’re very pleased with the result which found that we hadn’t overlooked anything. There are no legal issues at all.

There are two Sarco prototypes in existence so far, and the third Sarco is now being printed in the Netherlands. If all goes well, the third machine should be ready for operation in Switzerland in 2022.

The first Sarco is being displayed at the Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel, Germany from September 2021 to February 2022. The second turned out not to be aesthetically pleasing. For that and various other reasons it’s not the best one to use.

Several of Sarco’s supplementary projects have been delayed due to the [Covid-19] pandemic. For instance, the development of a camera that allows the person to communicate with the people outside. There needs to be a recording of the person’s informed consent. This has been commissioned and the next step is to get it manufactured.

Sarco suicide capsule ‘passes legal review’ in Switzerland


SWI swissinfo.ch: Your stated goal is to de-medicalise the dying process. What does that entail?

P.N.: Currently a doctor or doctors need to be involved to prescribe the sodium pentobarbital and to confirm the person’s mental capacity. We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves.

Our aim is to develop an artificial intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity. Naturally there is a lot of scepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists. But our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco.

SWI swissinfo.ch: You are based in the Netherlands. How will you potentially enter the Swiss market?

P.N.: We have been talking with various groups in Switzerland, including those we have worked with before on individual assisted suicide cases, with a view to providing Sarco for use in the country. This would be in collaboration with a local organisation.

Barring any unforeseen difficulties, we hope to be ready to make Sarco available for use in Switzerland next year. It’s been a very expensive project so far but we think we’re pretty close to implementation now.

The Printable Coffin of ‘Doctor Death’

The Printable Coffin of ‘Doctor Death’

The Printable Coffin of ‘Doctor Death’, the Australian Guru of Euthanasia

“It’s not for sale, but anyone can print it out at home and assemble it by following the instructions,” says Nitschke.

He presented it in 2019 at the Venice Biennale and several people, he says, have been interested from Spain in his futuristic sarcophagus to die.

“I was captivated by the civil disobedience and social activism that surrounded the death of Ramón Sampedro in 1998”

In the summer of 1996, Philip Nitschke became the first physician in the world to administer a lethal injection in the first ever case of assisted legal euthanasia.

Only four people from the Australian state of Northem Territory were eligible for the new law, which was repealed nine months later. “Against public opinion, the Australian Medical Association and the Church, it was my turn to make the law work,” confesses the 73-year-old activist.

“To do this, I invented the Deliverance machine, a software connected to the patient’s arm that allows him to self-administer lethal drugs into a vein using a computer-assisted procedure.”

That artifact is now on display in the London Science Museum as an engineering milestone in the fight for the right to a dignified death.

But it is not the only one.

The printable coffin of ‘Doctor Death’

Nitschke has spent the last three years creating Sarco (the printable coffin of Doctor Death), a revolutionary 3D printable coffin that provides a quick, painless and peaceful death.

“It is designed to lower the oxygen and CO2 levels inside the capsule, which ends up producing hypoxia, loss of consciousness and, ultimately, death,” explains its inventor.

“The sensation is similar to that generated by a sudden depressurization in an airplane: placid sleep, vertigo, disorientation and even euphoria.”

The printable coffin of Doctor Death, which was presented at the 2019 Venice Biennale, cost €300,000, part of which is being used to develop artificial intelligence software that analyzes the mental capacities of the occupants.

“It is not for sale, but anyone can print it at home and assemble it afterwards. You will be able to follow the instructions in the .

If all goes well, it will be used in Switzerland for the first time at the end of this year.”

Sarco was conceived as an “ethically and aesthetically effective alternative” to the suicide kits (such as the nitrogen bag) promoted by Exit International, the non-profit organization that Nitschke founded in 1997.

Because the machine is portable, it allows for the planning one’s death in a desired place: in the mountains, next to a lake or on a paradisiacal beach.

You can also choose a dark or transparent view.

The mission of this “object of artistic beauty”, exhibited at the Cube Design Museum in Limburg in the Netherlands in 2020 and at the Museum for Sepulkralkultur in Kassel Germany in 2021, is twofold: to minimize the agony (the process lasts five minutes) and to demedicalize the death process.

Many people found the practice of the plastic bag with gas repulsive.

Since Sarco does not require controlled drugs, it eliminates the need for a psychiatric evaluation and can be used in some countries without medical involvement.

And he adds: “The only way to control the coffin is from the inside, so it is not possible to kill someone with it.”

In his early days as a euthanasia guru, Nitschke sold nitrogen cylinders so that people could self-deliver, and he also helped them get Nembutal.

“Actually, this was not exactly the case.”

In the year 2000 I founded with a friend a company of accessories for brewing beer, one of my passions.

We do not commit any illegality, since nitrogen dispensing cylinders have multiple applications.

As for Nembutal, in my book, The Peaceful Pill Handbook (La Pildora Apacible – in Spanish), I offer detailed instructions on how to obtain it in countries such as Mexico and Peru, or via the internet.

The purchase of this drug without a prescription could be legal in South America, but not bringing it back to Europe.

I limit myself to providing that information, but what people do with it is their business.

The Nickname Dr Death

These practices at the limit of legality earned him the nickname of Doctor Death.

“At first it bothered me that they called me that, but then I appropriated it as a sign of identity.”

So much so that in 2015 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival he had a comedy show about euthanasia titled ‘Dicing Dice with Dr. Death’.

Although Nitschke has taken many precautions to ensure the good practice of pro-euthanasia activism (such as thoroughly tracking of his patients and not selling his book to those under 50 years of age) he has been involved in various controversies, such as when he was linked to the assisted death of a 45-year-old man, Nigel Brayley, who was being investigated for two murder crimes.

“Nigel attended one of the Exit workshops and shared his anguish with me. He seemed knowledgeable and thorough.

When, in the wake of that case, I defended the right of a rational adult to suicide, the Australian Medical Board decided to disqualify me.

A court returned his medical license. The Medical Board demanded he remove his name from the cover of his book.

“That seemed unacceptable to me. So I burned my license and fled Australia in search of a more hospitable political environment.”

Since 2015 he lives in Ámsterdam.

“Here the debate goes beyond assisted death for sick people to more and encompasses what is known as a complete life”.

Healthy old people who do not want to continue in this world any more.

The digital version of The Peaceful Pill Handbook, the first volume was banned by the Australian authorities, the only Australian book to be banned in the last 50 years, is updated every month.

“We have recently included information on the new anti-covid helmets as an alternative to gas bags and the latest data on deaths from ‘Middel X’, a deadly powder without a prescription distributed among 20,000 members of a Dutch cooperative.

The Keys of Ramon Sanpedro

Nitschke does not hide the emotion he experienced in March this year when he learned that Spain was joining the exclusive club of the five countries (together with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada) that regulate Euthanasia.

“I was totally captivated by the social activism and civil disobedience that surrounded the death of Ramón Sampedro in 1998″, he tells me.

“In fact, Exit copied the strategy of the keys to his apartment distributed among several friends in the famous case of Nancy Crick in Australia.”

Doctor Death says that several people have been interested in Spain for its futuristic sarcophagus for euthanasia.

“With a bit of luck, Sarco will contribute to improve the conditions of people who, in a rational, free and informed way, decide to end their life.”

Hawaii Buys ‘30 Death Pods’

Hawaii Buys ‘30 Death Pods’

Did Hawaii Buy ‘Death Pods’ After Legalizing Physician-Assisted Death?

Following the Jan. 1, 2019, legalization of physician-assisted death in Hawaii, state leaders bought 30 “passing assistance pods.”

Snopes investigates this Facebook viral posting.

Read the full story at Snopes.

Fast Company

Fast Company

The industrialized West doesn’t know how to deal with death. Culturally, we only seem capable of engaging with the end of a human being’s life in one way: as a problem. That problem can be “solved” by medicalizing it into a million little pieces, throwing money and fantasy at it, or simply turning away from the people facing its natural approach. Rituals of acceptance, dignity, or even beauty around death are not part of our social firmware–which is why a project like Philip Nitschke’s Sarco may seem sincere, obscene, crass, and humane all at once.

Read the full Article on Fastcompany.com

Russia Today

Russia Today

Tired of the old, painful and ugly suicide methods? Now you can have a “peaceful, elective and lawful death” at the press of a button with Sarco, a suicide pod – and it even comes with a built-in eco-friendly coffin.
Alongside halls filled with abstract art and video installations, browsers at the 58th Venice art Biennale can now get a sneak peak at “Sarco” – short for sarcophagus, – a sleek, portable and 3D printable machine that could help bring suicide into the 21st century.
Daily Star

Daily Star

As lifespans continue to lengthen, rules around euthanasia are likely to relax. And as they do so, entrepreneurs will be scrambling to offer the most painless and dignified endings.

Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke is ahead of the curve with the sleek and elegant Sarco. The Sarco (short for Sarcophagus) is a futuristic Star Trek coffin that, he says, will “allow rational adults the option of a peaceful, elective and lawful death in an elegant and stylish environment”.

A button on the inside of the pod allows the user to flood the enclosure with nitrogen. The effect is, according to Nitschke, a “slightly tipsy” feeling that soon results in a painless death.

Read the full Article on Dailystar.co.uk

Philip Nitschke’s 3D-printed “death pod” lets users die at the press of a button

Philip Nitschke’s 3D-printed “death pod” lets users die at the press of a button

Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke has created a 3D-printed suicide machine that allows users to administer their own death in a matter of minutes.

Called Sarco, the futuristic-looking machine features a coffin-like sealed pod with transparent panels. It sits on top of a raised platform that leans at an angle.

By pressing a button on the inside of the pod the machine floods with liquid nitrogen, an unregulated substance that can be easily purchased.

This lowers the oxygen level within the capsule, making the user feel “slightly tipsy” before falling unconscious and ultimately, dying.

Read the full Article on Dezeen.com

Tribuna (Mexico)

Tribuna (Mexico)

Sarco es una maquina con forma futurista para los pacientes con enfermedades terminales, con solo un botón se acaba su vida sin dolor.

Recientemente un médico australiano publicó un dispositivo que brinda asistencia a las personas que quieren acabar con su vida de manera sencilla e indolora.

Read the full Article on tribuna.com.mx



This weekend, euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke will unveil his most ambitious death machine yet, the “Sarco”.

This weekend in Venice, the euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke will unveil his most ambitious death machine yet. The 3-D printed “Sarco” (short for sarcophagus) will use nitrogen to provide a quick and peaceful death to any adult of sound mind who wants one. It’s the culmination of a 20-year journey that began when Nitschke invented the “Deliverance” machine – a device that allowed patients to use their laptop to self-administer a lethal injection.

Read the full Article on Vice.com

The Age

The Age

Australian euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke is about to unveil his new high-tech death machine in Venice and says people are already lining up to use it.

Dr Nitschke says the Sarco – short for sarcophagus – reinvents the experience of elected deaths.

And given it’s made using 3D printers, it could soon help people legally end their lives in countries that lack euthanasia laws.

Read the full article on theage.com



Dr Philip Nitschke – dubbed Dr Death – tells The Independent his device is not intended to glamourise the idea of a person taking their own life.

Opponents of euthanasia have expressed concern at the creation of a “suicide machine”, which has been developed by Dr Philip Nitschke.

The well-known advocate of individuals’ right to die has regularly caused controversy by assisting what he calls “rational suicides”.

Read the full Article on independent.co.uk

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post

Talk about “dying with dignity” has grown to a calamitous pitch in recent years. “Right to die” groups vie for supremacy, trying to show who can make the dying experience the least degrading. Who can replace the utter macabre-ness of the necessity of death with something more palatable.

In this reclamation of death ― a change from the silence of the past decades, when the subject was even hidden from children ― the focus on dignity is an admirable, yet somewhat clumsy, catch-all for how we should all want to die.

Read the full Article on huffpost.com

The Guardian

The Guardian

Euthanasia advocate displays ‘Sarco’, a pod that fills with nitrogen, which he hopes will one day be available as a 3D-printable device.

A controversial suicide pod that enables its occupant to kill themselves at the press of a button went on display at an Amsterdam funeral show on Saturday.

Read the full Article on theguardian.com

The Washington Post

The Washington Post

It is not the most cheerful offering. But euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke says he is about to revolutionize how we die.

At a funeral fair in Amsterdam last week, he showed off his “suicide machine.” The “Sarco,” short for sarcophagus, is designed to “provide people with a death when they wish to die,” Nitschke, an Australian national, told the news agency Agence France-Presse. It comes with a detachable coffin and a hookup for a nitrogen container.

Read the full article on washingtonpost.com



“After a minute and a half, you feel disoriented. In five minutes, you’re gone.”

In the Netherlands, euthanasia was written into the law in 2001. The law went into effect in 2002, which makes the country one of the most progressive when it comes to euthanasia. In 1996, Philip Nitschke became the first doctor to legally administer a deadly injection to one of his patients. In the international debate surrounding the topic of euthanasia, he is one of its most well-known and controversial proponents.

Read the full Article on Vice.com



Dr. Philip Nitschke considers himself the Elon Musk of assisted suicide—and his latest death machine, the Sarco, is his Tesla.

Newsweek spoke with the 70-year-old doctor immediately after the state of Victoria in Australia, his home country, voted this week to legalize euthanasia. Many are billing this as the first law of this nature Down Under, though Nitschke performed his first assisted death in 1996, during a brief period of legality in the country’s Northern Territory.

Read the full Article on Newsweek.com