Anyone who has cared for loved one at the end of life knows that dying isn’t always pretty. In developed nations we tend to medicate terminally ill individuals into narcotic stupors, but that doesn’t prevent death from sometimes still being a long, agonizing, and painful process. For that reason, some physicians believe that choosing to die peacefully should be a civil and human right available to the terminally ill of sound mind who are able to make that decision for themselves.
Despite decades of advocacy, though, assisted suicide remains an ethical and moral grey area and is currently legal only in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and six of the United States. In an attempt to make assisted suicide more easily available, comfortable, and presumably more hip, one physician has taken it upon himself to design a truly 21st-century suicide sarcophagus, able to be 3D printed at home. What could go wrong?
The new “Sarco capsule” was designed by Dr. Philip Nitschke of Victoria, Australia, a long-time proponent of physician-assisted suicide who helped several patients euthanize themselves before legislation was repealed making it illegal in Australia in 1997. That didn’t stop Nitschke, however, who has gone on to publish several books on assisted suicide and start the nonprofit Exit International which advocates for legal euthanasia worldwide. In an effort to bring safe and painless euthanasia to everyone who’s just had enough of 2017 (and haven’t we all), Nitschke designed the Sarco capsule from the ground up to be available for anyone.
Well, anyone with a large format 3D printer, $1500 in cash lying around, and access to four liters of liquid nitrogen. The machine is red, sleek, and shiny, with a glass top. On first glance it could be some sort of amusement park ride or concept car. The sarcophagus upper half can be removed once the patient inside has been euthanized and buried, while the lower base half can be reused. The machine requires users to input a personalized four-digit code generated by an online survey which measures their mental capacity. Once the code is accepted, the machine begins pumping liquid nitrogen into the capsule which lowers oxygen levels and calmly sends patients off to a peaceful end within minutes. While the Sarco capsule 3D printer schematics are open source, acquiring the materials to construct it could prove restrictive for some terminally ill individuals, particularly in countries where the sick are often left to pull themselves down into their graves by their own bootstraps.
While this machine will likely end up as more of a gimmick to attract attention to the issue of assisted suicide than a viable option for euthanasia, it makes you wonder: as populations continue to rise, resources continue to vanish, and the human scourge continues to render our planet barren, could suicide machines become an attractive option for individuals seeking to escape our inevitably dystopian future? I want mine to have racing stripes.