Dr. Death’s ‘suicide machine’ in funeral fair

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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. (AFP photo)

1971, Netherlands – A controversial suicide pod that enables its occupant to kill themselves at a press of a button went on display at Amsterdam funeral show on Saturday.

Called the “Sarco”, short for sarcophagus, the 3D-printed machine invented by Australian euthanasia activist Philip Nitschke and Dutch designer Alexander Bannink comes with a detachable coffin, mounted on a stand that contains a nitrogen canister.

“The person who wants to die presses the button and the capsule is filled with nitrogen. He or she will feel a bit dizzy but will then rapidly lose consciousness and die,” said Nitschke, who has been dubbed “Dr Death” for his work to legalise euthanasia.

The “Sarco” is a device “to provide people with a death when they wish to die,” Nitschke told AFP.

The inventors put a model of the device on display, together with a set of virtual reality glasses to give visitors a true-to-life experience of what it would be like to sit in the pod, before ultimately pressing the button.

Nitschke said he aimed to build the first fully-functioning pod before the end of the year.

After that, the design will be put online as an open-source document for people to download.

“That means that anybody who wants to build the machine can download the plans and 3D-print their own device,” Nitschke said.

Asked about the controversy surrounding euthanasia and legal hurdles, Nitschke said: “In many countries suicide is not against the law, only assisting a person to commit suicide is.”

“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,” Nitschke said.

Thousands of visitors flocked to the annual Amsterdam Funeral Expo at the city’s famous Westerkerk, where all the latest trends in death, such as biodegradable coffins and a hot-rod funeral hearse were on display.

But the “Sarco” drew large crowds, many of them morbidly curious to try out the device’s chair and virtual reality glasses.

“It was really an experience and a strange thing to see. But very pretty and calm. You see the moon, you see the sea. It’s very calm,” said Piet Verstraaten, 52, from the eastern Dutch city of Venray.

Others, however, were not impressed.

“Well, I think it’s quite silly. It’s stupid. I don’t get it. I’m not interested in a real ‘Sarco’. No,” said 52-year-old Rob Bruntink.

p: wjg

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