Right to die groups over the year have tried to portray death as a positive experience. They want to desensitize the general public to death, removing the negative connotations of assisted suicide. Dr. Philip Nitschke is looking to revolutionize the controversial topic of euthanasia with his death machine, the Sarco.
In 1997, Nitschke founded Exit International, a nonprofit that advocates for the legislation of euthanasia. This followed him administering the first legal, lethal, voluntary injection to a terminally ill patient in history. This occurred under the short-lived Australian Rights of Terminally Ill Act, but it shifted his perspective of self-inflicted suicide. Rather than being a concept reserved for the terminally ill, he believed that any rational adult should be allowed to experience a “good” death. Modern medicine can keep individuals alive for far longer than previously possible, leaving people in deteriorating states.
The majority of Exit Internationals members are the elderly, providing them with information on how to die with dignity. What Nitschke is currently striving for is to provide individuals with a death that is more than just “dignified.” He wants the passing into the afterlife to be a euphoric experience. Therefore, the Sarco was designed to have a spaceship-like aesthetic to make it seem as if an individual is “journeying to the great beyond.” This would remove the stigma that was often associated with the doctor’s prior machines. The previous inventions tended to reinforce the macabre stereotype of death, which served to put people off. Rather than dying strapped to a plastic bag, an individual can choose where and when to initiate the procedure.
The main draw behind the Sarco is that in concept it can be transported anywhere. No longer will people be restricted to hospitals to administer the euthanasia, they will have the opportunity to take into account the critical factor of where you die. The process is also painless and provides one of the most soothing feelings before death. The machine euthanizes individuals through hypoxia, where the oxygen level is lowered to the point that a person can still breath easily to receive the intoxicating sensation. The user then subsequently looses consciousness and dies.
The process to utilize the machine is also very personal, limiting outside interventions. A user has to fill out a survey which declares if they are mentally fit to make the decision, and they then receive a 24-hour access code to use at any Sarco machine in the world. When the code is entered at a device, the process commences. It’s an exciting concept, providing individuals with a possible alternative that could make their experience more personal and unique. In the end, it allows individuals the opportunity to achieve what they could consider being a “good” death on their own terms.