Update: Recent findings by Snopes suggests that while the Sarco creator claims that it has passed legal review in Switzerland, there is currently no evidence to back up the claim and enquiries to Swiss regulatory bodies have suggested that no legal permissions have been granted. Experts also express skepticism over the claim, and the creators are yet to release the details of their legal review.
A "suicide capsule" allowing fast and painless self-euthanasia has just passed Switzerland’s legal review proceedings and is now legal for use in the country. The Sarco, a sarcophagus-like pod that slowly reduces oxygen and increases nitrogen until the person inside passes peacefully, is expected to be ready for operation next year.
The company behind the Sarco believes it to be a peaceful and painless alternative to assisted suicide that uses no controlled substances, in contrast to the current method of ingesting sodium pentobarbital. Once the person has passed, the pod – which is 3D printed and made from biodegradable wood-based material – is detached and can be used as a coffin, ready to lay them to rest.
The contraption can be wheeled to anywhere the person wishes, de-coupling them from a clinical setting and allowing them to pass in their ideal surroundings.
“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 organisation, for example,” says Philip Nitschke, founder of Exit International, in an interview with Swiss Info.
To operate, the person is put into a comfortable bed inside the Sarco, and the pod shuts. They will then get asked a number of questions before activating the suicide mechanism in their own time, which can be aborted should they wish to stop proceedings. As Swiss Info reports, the pod will then flood the inside with nitrogen and decrease the oxygen content, from 21 percent all the way to 1 percent. Within 30 seconds, the individual supposedly feels a euphoric-like state, as the brain becomes hypoxic, before painlessly passing away. Due to the nature of the mechanism, there is no choking or hyperventilating that you would expect from a lack of oxygen, and the death is far removed from suffocation.
“The Sarco aims to provide a happy hypoxic death. Hypoxia means low oxygen. This is the same as when a plane depressurizes. The experience of being in a low oxygen environment can be intoxicating. Just ask scuba divers!” writes Exit International in an FAQ.
The Sarco was inspired by Tony Nicklinson, a famous man from the UK that had locked-in syndrome and campaigned to die in a manner of his choosing. His legal team reached out to the creators of the Sarco, but he passed away of pneumonia after refusing food for a week in 2012, sparking a fierce debate over the right to die.
Despite delays due to COVID-19, Exit International hope to push the Sarco out by 2022 in Switzerland for use by those seeking euthanasia, and also intend on adding additional features, such as a camera that allows the user to speak to those outside the pod.
If you or someone you know is struggling, help and support is available in the US at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255. In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. International helplines can be found at SuicideStop.com.