Known as 'Tesla of Euthanasia,' 'Suicide Capsule' Banned by Swiss Authorities Weeks Before First Planned Use

By Thea Felicity

Jul 10, 2024 11:49 AM EDT

'Suicide Capsule' Banned by Swiss Authorities Weeks Before First Planned Use
This is a euthanasia device or machine invented by Philip Nitschke and Dutch industrial designer, Alexander Bannink.
(Photo : Ratel/Wikimedia Commons)

Authorities from Switzerland have banned the use of a "suicide capsule" called Sarco, which was set to be used in euthanasia clinics this month, according to The Daily Mail. 

In 2021, BBC reported that the Sarco pod, a 3D-printed device designed to assist in suicide, is set to be launched in Switzerland, pending regulatory approval. A Swiss legal expert initially found the pod to not violate Swiss laws until now. 

Dr. Philip Nitschke, the pod's creator, intends to make the design freely available online. He aims to "de-medicalize" the dying process and empower individuals to control their end-of-life choices without psychiatric review. Known as "Dr. Death" for his advocacy, Nitschke's approach has faced criticism.

How Sarco Pod or 'Suicide Capsule' Works

Often described as the "Tesla of euthanasia," Nitschke's suicide capsule has drawn massive attention and controversy due to its method of enabling assisted suicide, which has raised ethical and legal concerns about the control and regulation of the dying process. 

The device allows patients to press a button and die within seconds by filling the capsule with nitrogen to induce hypoxia.

Critics argued that it could malfunction or be misused, leading to unintended consequences. They also contend that the Sarco "suicide capsule" could potentially malfunction or be intentionally misused, resulting in unintended and possibly harmful outcomes.

As suggested by MIT Technology Review, if the device malfunctions, it might fail to induce unconsciousness or cause prolonged suffering instead of a swift and painless death as intended. Misuse of the device could involve scenarios where individuals who are not of sound mind or who are coerced into using it might face premature death, raising ethical and legal dilemmas about the control and regulation of such end-of-life technologies.

READ MORE: Swiss Bank UBS Integrates AI for Faster Credit Services, Other Banks Expected to Follow Suit

Why Switzerland Banned Sarco 'Suicide Capsule'

Swiss Newspaper NZZ stated that prosecutors in Schaffhausen Canton, Switzerland, have warned that assisting someone using the device could result in up to five years in prison.

Public Prosecutor Peter Sticher emphasized the lack of reliable information about the method and control of the process and that allowing it to operate in the country would likely promote "death tourism," which ultimately led to the device's prohibition.

At the same time, pro-life groups and ethical commentators have condemned the Sarco, arguing that it glamorizes and trivializes suicide. They believe that promoting such devices could undermine efforts to prevent suicide and provide appropriate mental health support.

Moreover-the sleek, futuristic design of the Sarco, which resembles a sci-fi creation, has also contributed to the debate, as critics fear it might attract vulnerable individuals seeking an easy way out without fully considering the irreversible consequences. 

For now, concerned groups are calling for stringent safeguards and ethical considerations to prevent potential misuse and ensure that any technology facilitating assisted suicide operates safely and responsibly. 

Despite the ban, Nitschke and his team had nearly completed preparations for its introduction and selected a candidate for the first use, although they have not confirmed these details publicly.

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