Switzerland approves assisted ‘suicide capsule’ for use in legally-assisted suicide

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

Approximately 1,300 people died by assisted suicide in Switzerland in 2020 using the services of the country’s two largest assisted suicide organizations, 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.  

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. 

Philip Nitschke went onto say “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 organization, 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 whole thing takes about 30 seconds,” he said “Death takes place through hypoxia and hypocapnia, oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation, respectively. There is no panic, no choking.”

The Sarco Suicide Pod is expected to be operational in 2022. The company has made three prototypes, but one was not “aesthetically pleasing” so it will not be used, it says. The company has not yet announced how much it will cost to use the service.

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