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3D-printed suicide pods are now legal in Switzerland

·3-min read
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.
Alexander Bannink, a Dutch designer, explaining 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 via Getty Images
  • Sarco capsules flood their interior with nitrogen and reduce oxygen to help people die.

  • Compared to other methods, Sarco offers death without using controlled substances, Swiss Info said.

  • Dr. Philip Nitschke said the Sarco capsule should be ready for use in Switzerland in 2022.

"Sarco" machines — 3D-printed capsules designed for use in assisted suicide — have passed a legal review and can now operate in Switzerland, Swiss Info reported.

Prototyped in the Netherlands by Dr. Philip Nitschke, the coffinlike Sarco capsule should be ready for operation in Switzerland in 2022, he told the outlet. While the Swiss assisted-dying sector's approach requires the ingestion of liquid sodium pentobarbital, Sarco can provide a peaceful death without using controlled substances, Swiss Info reported.

"The benefit for the person who uses it is that they don't have to get any permission, they don't need some special doctor to try and get a needle in, and they don't need to get difficult drugs to obtain," Nitschke said in a Sarco demonstration last year.

The capsule is activated from the inside and can be towed to a location that the person wishes to die in, such as an outdoor setting or the premises of an assisted-suicide organization, Nitschke told Swiss Info. Once activated, the capsule floods its interior with nitrogen and rapidly reduces oxygen, causing the person to lose consciousness and, ultimately, die without choking or panicking, he continued.

The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and Colombia allow assisted suicide, although each has different rules about it, The Guardian reported. Almost all countries and states that permit the practice require people to have an incurable or terminal condition that can't be remedied and causes them suffering.

Switzerland has no laws prohibiting the practice and only considers it an offense to assist a suicide if it's done with selfish motives, The Guardian reported. In the Netherlands, euthanasia can be requested by anyone 12 years old and older who has "unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement," but parental consent is required if a child is under 16.

Jeroen Recourt, the chair of the Regional Euthanasia Review Committees, said the "vast majority" of euthanasia cases in the Netherlands concerned elderly people who were suffering from a serious illness, such as cancer, the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw reported.

In 2020, euthanasia in the Netherlands peaked with 6,938 procedures performed, an increase of 9% compared to the previous year, Dutch News reported.

"These figures are part of a larger development," Recourt told Trouw. "More and more generations see euthanasia as a solution for unbearable suffering." He added, "But the thought that euthanasia is an option in the case of hopeless suffering is very reassuring."

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