‘Suicide Pod’ Approved for Use in Switzerland

By Todd Crawford | December 7, 2021
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VERBIER, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 1: A Swiss flag flies at the ski resort of Verbier on March 1, 2020 at Verbier, Switzerland. Switzerland has recently approved the use of a “suicide pod” developed by the international non-profit Exit International. (Image: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Switzerland has legalized the use of a “suicide pod” for assisted suicide, a 3D-printed portable capsule developed by Australia-based international nonprofit Exit International. The pod, which resembles a coffin, will be ready for operation in the country next year. 

The Sarco pod, presumably named after a sarcophagus, which carries the tagline “Go with style” can be towed to a preferred location by the person who is choosing to die and is activated from the inside. 

Dr Philip Nitschke, an Australian humanist and founder and director of the pro-euthanasia group, Exit International, said in an interview with Swiss Info, “The person will lie down inside the capsule and they will be asked a couple of questions, and after which they will be given time to press the button to activate the process.”

Once activated, the pod is filled with nitrogen and rapidly decreases the available oxygen in the pod, causing the occupant to lose consciousness and pass away without panicking or choking. Exit International claims the entire process takes about one minute, is painless, and provides the user with a brief feeling of euphoria before passing away. 

Exit International

According to its website, Exit International “is a leading non-profit, voluntary assisted dying organization,” which takes the unique stance that a “good death” is a fundamental human right “rather than a medical privilege reserved only for the terminally ill.”

The organization boasts an online support base of over 30,000 people from across the globe and is supported by a small staff and “an active network of volunteers.”

Exit International is working towards eventually using artificial intelligence “in a screening system to establish a user’s mental capacity,” in an attempt to “remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” The Hill Reported. 

The organization is responsible for publishing The Peaceful Pill Handbook in 2006, a book that provides information on voluntary euthanasia. The book, available online, contains video clips on assisted dying methods and related issues but does not provide “how-to” instructions. 

The authors of the book, Philip Nitschke and Fiona Stewart, say that the book is primarily intended for seniors, or for people who are seriously ill and for their friends and family. 

The book is restricted in Australia but is available without restriction on Amazon.com.

In New Zealand The Society for Promotion of Community Standards, a lobbying group, objected to the book’s publication. New Zealand authorities subsequently banned the book deeming it an “objectionable publication” and only permitted a redacted form to be available for purchase only if sealed and  brandishing a censorship classification. 

Few countries approve of assisted dying

Assisted suicide, or voluntary euthanasia is legal in a small number of countries including The Netherlands, Colombia, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland and typically requires that those who wish to die have an incurable or terminal illness. 

Switzerland however is one of only a handful of countries that permits assisted suicide for non-residents, meaning nationals from other countries where assisted suicide is illegal can travel to Switzerland to end their life. 

In Switzerland, it is illegal to assist a patient in dying in some circumstances though. The Swiss Criminal Code allows for imprisonment of up to five years for anyone who “for selfish reasons, incites someone to commit suicide or who assists that person in doing so.”

In order to avoid conviction, the person has to prove that the deceased knew what he or she was doing, had capacity to make the decision, and had made an “earnest” request, meaning they asked for death several times.

USA: National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1 800 273 8255

Canada Crisis Services: 1 833 456  4566

UK Samaritans: 116 123

NOSP Ireland: 016352139

Australia Lifeline: 13 11 14

NZ Suicide Prevention: 0508 828 865