Suicide Machine: ‘Sarco’ Death Pod That Lets Users Kill Themselves Showcased

Sarco
The Sarco 3D-printed euthanasia device was showcased during a funeral fair in Amsterdam on April 14, 2018. Exit International

A 3D-printed euthanasia device that will assist users to kill themselves was displayed for the first time on Saturday (April 14) during a funeral fair in Amsterdam. Dubbed ‘Sarco,’ short for sarcophagus, the model was revealed alongside a virtual reality (VR) demonstration which let attendees experience the pod in action.

The device first hit the headlines last year after prototype designs were released by its two creators, Australian euthanasia activist Dr. Philip Nitschke, who has been nicknamed “Dr. Death,” and Dutch engineer Alexander Bannink. In 1997, Nitschke founded the ‘end-of-life’ non-profit organization Exit International.

The Sarco provides death by hypoxia, or low levels of oxygen, and is designed to be portable. It will come with a built-in detachable coffin and its inventors claim that a fully-functioning version will be built this year, after which the blueprints will be made open source and published online for anyone to access and download.

“In many countries suicide is not against the law, only assisting a person to commit suicide is,” Nitschke told Agence France-Presse (AFP) at the event.

“This is a situation where one person chooses to press a button rather than for instance standing in front of a train. I believe it’s a fundamental human right [to choose when to die]. It’s not just some medical privilege for the very sick. If you’ve got the precious gift of life, you should be able to give that gift away at the time of your choosing.”

According to AFP, the funeral fair drew a crowd of thousands but the device had a mixed reception. “I think it’s quite silly,” Rob Bruntink, 52, told the news agency. 

A press release that was published prior to the weekend funeral event stated: “The Sarco will sit on a generator using liquid nitrogen. To activate Sarco, a person would step inside, lie down and, when ready, press the button. While being very peaceful, the hypoxic death will also have style and elegance.

In an op-ed published in The Huffington Post this year, Nitschke explained how the suicide machine is intended to work. He said that all potential customers would have to fill out an “online test” to judge their mental fitness. If they pass the examination, they will be given a code to the Sarco that is valid for 24 hours.

From there, the user enters the code and the final death process begins. The creator said that “liquid nitrogen in the generator is released, rapidly bringing down the oxygen level in the capsule.” Nitschke claimed it was painless, stating: “Within a minute, the user loses consciousness; death comes a short time later.”

But he conceded: “The Sarco will not be for everyone, that’s clear.”

Sarco Dutch designer Alexander Bannink explains how the 'Sarco' euthanasia pod works as a woman experiences sitting in the device by wearing virtual reality glasses, on April 14, 2018 at the Amsterdam Funeral Expo. JAN HENNOP/AFP/Getty Images

In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. You can reach it via: 1-800-273-8255. In the U.K., you can contact the Samaritans on: 116 123.