The Sarco is a multi-faceted R&D project of Exit International.
There are 4 principal components to Sarco Project. Apart from the game-changing 3D printing of the enclosed euthanasia capsule, the Sarco project incorporates research questions involving Sarco Raspberry Pi software to allow entry access, the development of mental capacity screening using AI and, finally, the concept of an implantable dementia switch.
1. Sarco Raspberry Pi & the Development of AI Screening
The Sarco project incorporates experimental software developments.
In this regard, Raspberry Pi processor will allow a series of mandatory questions to be asked of the user of the Sarco, before they activate it for use (and for their ultimate death).
A series of questions will be asked verbally. Only upon the correct responses being recorded will the green ‘Go’ button be able to be pushed and the Sarco acvitated by the user (inside).
The questions to be answered are:
- What is your name
- Where are you?
- What will happen when you press the activation button inside Sarco?
The final question is: ‘Do you wish to proceed?’
If this final question records a ‘yes’ answer, the user will be able to push the green ‘go’ button and activate the Sarco.
This is the activation procedure for the Sarco and is already part of Sarco 3.0.
2. AI Mental Capacity Screening: Is this the Future?
In Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed as long as the person being assisted possesses mental capacity.
At the current time, mental capacity is determined by a psychiatric assessment by a registered psychiatrist.
The Sarco project wants to challenge this status quo using AI.
The research question driving this part of the Sarco project is, ‘is AI better at mental capacity assessment than a real life psychiatrist?’
The role of AI in the determination of mental capacity remains controversial, even though there is growing evidence that current human assessment is subject to bias and an inability to replicate results.
A recent summary of the Sarco Project in MIT Technology Review referred to a “messy morality” of letting AI make life and death decisions.
This article can be read on the Exit International Website.
3. The Development of an Implantable Dementia Switch?
The Sarco R&D project also incorporates the objective of creating an implantable switch which could be activated by the person in whose body it is implanted, in the face of mental decline due to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
At the current time, the only strategy (at least in the Netherlands) on offer to give agency (in terms of end of life decision-making) back to those suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s, is an advance health directive.
In most jurisdictions, however, not even this is available. People with a cognitive mental health diagnosis tend to be excluded from most legislative models. This is a deeply unsatisfactory and cruel state of affairs.
To address this need, Exit has set about to create a programmable, implantable switch.
In theory, this switch would be continuously maintained by a user as a normal function of their continuing mental capacity.
However, if the switch failed to be maintained by its owner, again in theory, the switch could instigate an action that could cause death.
A thought experiment has been created by Marije de Haas. This work has inspired Exit’s thinking and commitment to find a technological solution to this intractable problem.