Swiss medical officials have legalized a new controversial method of assisted suicide. Known as the Sarco Suicide Pod, the 3D-printable machine resembles a portable coffin, which is controlled by the user from within. The machine could be in use in Switzerland by 2022, but it is already drawing criticism from pro-life organizations.
A report from The Sun describes the pod as a “coffin-life” capsule. In fact, Sarco Suicide Pod developer Dr. Philip Nitschke noted that the name “Sarco” came from the word sarcophagus, which the pod resembles. Once inside the pod, the user must answer a series of questions, before being allowed to push the button.
The machine works by filling the chamber with liquid nitrogen, which lowers the oxygen levels from 21% to 1%. Once the process begins, it takes about 30 seconds for the user to pass into a euphoric sleep, and between 5 to 10 minutes for death to occur. Unlike other means of assisted suicide that rely on drugs to bring about death, the Sarco Suicide Pod kills by lowering both the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels of the blood.
In an interview with Swiss Info, Nitschke stated that one goal of the project is to “de-medicalize” dying. He also noted that the pod was designed so no doctor need be present. Nitschke said:
“We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves.” He added, “Our aim is to develop an artificial intelligence screening system to establish the person’s mental capacity. Naturally there is a lot of skepticism, especially on the part of psychiatrists. But our original conceptual idea is that the person would do an online test and receive a code to access the Sarco.”
The Swiss decision to allow the use of the Sarco Suicide pod has already received criticism from pro-life advocates. According to Catholic Leader, Cherish Life Queensland chief executive officer Teeshan Johnson is already calling on government officials to put a stop to the pod’s “promotional tour” in Austrailia. She said:
“Australia has a devastating suicide problem, and promoting suicide, as Nitschke does, is extremely dangerous and counter-productive to suicide prevention programs.”
While Catholic officials have yet to make an official statement on the Sarco Suicide pod, previous directions on assisted suicide continue to be relevant in the discussion. In July, 2021, Pope Francis said:
“A society is human if it protects life, every life, from its beginning to its natural end, without choosing who is worthy to live or who is not. Doctors should serve life, not take it away.”
In 2011, The USCCB released a statement on physician assisted suicide, “To Live Each Day with Dignity.” In the missive, the bishops suggested that assisted suicide only offers a false compassion and the illusion of freedom. The bishops wrote:
“Our society should embrace what Pope John Paul II called ‘the way of love and true mercy’—a readiness to surround patients with love, support, and companionship, providing the assistance needed to ease their physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. This approach must be anchored in unconditional respect for their human dignity, beginning with respect for the inherent value of their lives.”