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'Suicide Machine' That Could Kill With The Blink Of An Eye Reignites Euthanasia Debate

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'Suicide Machine' That Could Kill With The Blink Of An Eye Reignites Euthanasia Debate

An Australian former physician and pro-euthanasia activist has unveiled a device which could potentially allow users to end their lives by blinking.

The Sarco device - developed by Dr Philip Nitschke - is designed to allow people to end their lives without assistance, reports the Independent.

Many of those who currently seek out euthanasia suffer from debilitating illnesses which inhibit their movement. As such, assisted suicide is the only method available to those who wish to end their lives.

Dr Nitschke was inspired by a UK man named Tony Nicklinson, who contacted him after developing locked-in syndrome, which prevented him from moving or speaking.

Dr Philip Nitschke (Credit: PA)
Dr Philip Nitschke (Credit: PA)

Dr Nitschke went on to design the Sarco machine which could be activated by blinking an eye, rather than using a lever or plunger, currently a common method of assisted suicide.

The machine releases nitrogen gas, which causes hypoxic death, wherein the body is starved of oxygen. According to the Independent, researchers say it prevents the anxiety and discomfort of non-nitrogen induced suffocation.

Dr Nitschke's machine will be welcomed by euthanasia supporters but has naturally reignited the debate over assisted suicide, with some claiming that it will glamourise suicide.


In the case of Tony Nicklinson, he sadly died just a few months after contacting Dr Nitschke, having refused fluids and food.

The first Sarco machine is set to be built this year in the Netherlands and then shipped to Switzerland, which has more relaxed euthanasia laws, and is home to the famous Dignitas clinic.

Dr Philip Nitschke (Credit: PA)
Dr Philip Nitschke (Credit: PA)

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are both illegal under UK law and can be regarded as manslaughter or murder, with a maximum life imprisonment sentence. However, such severe sentencing is very rare.


Euthanasia is currently legal in some form in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, Canada and India, while assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, South Korea, Japan and several US states.

Many people from the UK and elsewhere have travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to seek assisted suicide, though the cost of doing so runs into the tens of thousands and is therefore prohibitively expensive for many.

While pro-euthanasia supports will greet the development of the Sarco machine as a step forward in enabling people to take control over their death in a dignified manner, it is bound to fuel debate as to whether suicide should be legalised, with religious bodies in particular generally opposed to such a move.

Featured Image Credit: Exit International

Topics: World News, News, Health

Ronan O'Shea
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