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3D printed Sarco capsule may become the first assisted suicide device of this kind in the world

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Posted February 8, 2018

You lay down comfortably in a futuristic-looking capsule. You close your eyes and just breathe. After a few minutes you‘re gone. Dead. And all your pain, suffering and illness are gone with you. This is basically how a 3D printed Sarco assisted suicide device is going to work. But is the world ready for it?

Sarco may reach hospitals in Switzerland sometime this year (Philip Nitschke/Manufacturers image via YouTube)

Assisted suicide is still a difficult subject to tackle. On one hand we want everyone to live long and happy lives, but on another – we have to admit that suffering of some people cannot be cured or alleviated by modern medicine. The empathy, as people say, is the driving force behind assisted suicide, famously legal in Switzerland and some other countries. Philip Nitschke is from Australia. He is a famous advocate for euthanasia and a founder of a company that distributes nitrogen tanks used in suicide. Nitschke is seen like hero by some and as a murderer by others, but he always says that the life is worth living until it isn’t.

Nitrogen is also the key component of the Sarco capsule, but it is not that straight forward. At first the person is screened to address his mental health and the ability to make such decisions. Then he receives a code, which allows accessing Sarco for 24 hours. The person has time to change his mind, but once the decision is made death is imminent. Person just has to lay down in the capsule, while some liquid nitrogen is pumped into it. Soon nitrogen fills the capsule and oxygen level drops to about 5 % (in normal environment it is around 21 %). After around one minute the person loses consciousness and after a few more minutes he dies. Nitschke hopes to put Sarco capsules in hospitals in Switzerland sometime this year, but they will also be available for 3D printing in the entire world.

Death in a Can in Australia

Philip Nitschke is an expert in this field. He gained huge international attention by selling “death in a can” – a suicide kit, containing a nitrogen tank and a plastic bag. Person, who decides to commit suicide, just has to put the bag over his head, fill it with nitrogen and after a minute he loses consciousness. Another 2-5 minutes and he dies. Nitschke says that this kind of death is very peaceful and painless and for many terminally people it certainly looks like a better way out.

So far it is unknown how much it will cost to use a Sarco capsule. Will Switzerland allow using them in the first place? This country is a well-known suicide tourism destination, because people from around the world come to use services of Dignitas – a non-profit organization for assisted suicides. Assisted suicides in Dignitas are typically carried out by drinking pentobarbital. While the procedures and financial status of the organization is still a subject of public debate, Swiss people have voted multiple times to keep assisted suicide legal for both nationals and tourists.

People generally love to live. Wanting to die is not normal, because this life has so much to offer. However, terminally ill people who suffer from huge psychological pressure and physical pain are usually the ones seeking assisted suicide.

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