Taking your own life remains taboo in most of the countries on the planet. Only a small handful of countries (Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Japan) contemplate active euthanasia as legal means in their legislation . As a way to leave this world without restrictions, without a terminal illness or a disability of unbearable suffering.
Hence, the err, technological development of euthanasia has been constrained to a handful of corners. The Netherlands is the most prominent, largely because there lives and works Philip Nitschke, an Australian doctor popularly known as “the guru of euthanasia” or, more prosaically, “Doctor Death” (yes, like Mengele). Nitschke was the first doctor to practice euthanasia in the Netherlands after its legalization in 2001, and since then it is a sort of “Elon Musk of assisted suicide.
The comparison is not trivial. To the many books and articles written on “the right to death”, or what is the same, the right to kill oneself protected by law, Nitschke has added a new and surprising creation: The Sarco. A futuristic 3D printable sarcophagus that facilitates a painless and peaceful death to any human who wishes it. The capsule is entered, the protocol is activated, the nitrogen is inhaled and in five minutes the own existence is finished. The dream 4.0 of Kierkegaard.
According to Nitschke, whose residence in the Netherlands obeys the firm pillars on which his field of study and dissemination is based, the machine will be available from 2018. So surprising technological milestone is signed by Exit International, the company / foundation that supports the activity, how to say it, Nitschke’s philanthropic. The Australian doctor has spent half his life trying to ensure that anyone who wants to kill himself can do so safely and without violence. The Sarco is his last notch in the revolver.
How does it work? As he explains, in a simple way. The machine is a twisted dream of science fiction, a self-contained 3D printable capsule in which the buyer sits down and takes his own life. He does this by activating a small dose of nitrogen that leaves him unconscious after a minute, and after five minutes, he saves the rest of his life. It only works from within (you can not kill anyone) and has two emergency buttons (in case someone regrets in the middle of the process).
It is not the first time that Nitschke, perhaps the most prominent and controversial figure in medical euthanasia, creates a machine to ensure a quick, painless and simple death. In 1997 he launched The Deliverance, a simple portable computer that triggered a lethal dose of barbiturates once the patient had confirmed his desire to lose his life. Little by little, his professional path has led him to The Sarco. Your own and voluntary sarcófado.
You have a right to die (or so Nitschke thinks)
The moral problems of a literal death machine are very varied. The main one is inherent to euthanasia. Is there a right to take your own life? Much of the restrictions of the states to free euthanasia, without conditions of disease or disability, is based on the same principles by which suicide is combated: life has an intrinsic value in itself. Few people in their senses, or in their physical and psychiatric fullness, want to lose it.
For Nitschke this is a focus error. As he himself argued in this interview with Vice: “The most common argument is that there is no such thing as rational suicide, and that the desire for death is, by definition, the result of a psychiatric illness. Someone’s desire to die should not be dealt with per se Another objection is that life is a gift My contention is: if life is a gift, you are allowed to give it in. Otherwise, it is not a burden before a gift?”
Even accepting his point of view, the death capsule poses other problems. Exit International requires its customers to be over 50 years old. For the Australian doctor is an arbitrary barrier, but forced by the strong rejection that his ideas generated in the United States in 2011 (before the possibility of promoting suicidal ideas among the youngest).
And what about clients who do have a severe clinical stage? For example, people who go through a serious depression whose cure, as we know, is feasible. Could they also access The Sarco ? According to Nitschke, yes. Here is the main point of conflict of the capsule: there is a kind of preliminary test that aims to determine whether the buyer is mentally healthy or not. A depressed person, according to Nitschke, can pass it or not. For him (and for Exit International) it is not an exclusive criterion.
According to his perspective, the test will be carried out by a future Artificial Intelligence that will perfect the screen and that will allow a reliable discernment between those who want to end their lives, convinced of it, and those who raise it because of mental illnesses that are reversible or that can distort Your judgment and will. Be that as it may, the who, the access to death administered autonomously, is the crux of the matter: should all the people of the world be able to freely enter The Sarco and decide to leave this world?
For Nitschke it is a question of individual rights: people should be able to choose freely what they want to do with their lives. Even if that means ripping it off and to do it safely, nonviolently and effectively, painlessly, quickly. Today this is complicated: most suicides are risky, can go wrong and cause sequelae for life and include a high dose of violence even in the least harmful of cases. The Sarco is just the opposite: a quiet farewell, overlooking your favorite landscape (it has windows).
According to Exit International, the machine does not have many production problems. The Dutch authorities have already informed you that there are no legal restrictions. Another issue is that it can be sold to third countries where euthanasia legislation is much more limited. There will not come The Sarco, a technological milestone and a controversial moral product of the future to which we are heading.