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08 Jan 2003 06:21
A suicide machine which produces up to a litre of carbon monoxide a minute will be demonstrated on Sunday by the controversial Australian euthanasia doctor Philip Nitschke.
Nitschke, head of the assisted suicide group Exit Australia, will show the machine to the national conference of the American euthanasia advocacy body the Hemlock Society in San Diego, California.
In August he introduced the “exit bag”, a plastic hood with a draw-string neck which can be pulled over the head to cause suffocation.
The new machine, he said, was made in response to requests from Exit Australia members for a more dignified method of euthanasia.
“The exit bag is a peaceful way of dying but people were saying, ‘I don’t want to be found with a plastic bag over my head.’ “
The new device weighs less than a kilo and can be made at home for about Â£35. The carbon monoxide it produces is cooled before being pumped through a nasal breathing tube.
Using different substances, it can also produce therapeutic oxygen.
Exit Australia believe that this feature will save the device from being banned.
Five months after the introduction of exit bags, the federal government in Canberra has found no legal grounds on which to fault them.
“We’ll be able to say to people, ‘Don’t add these substances to it, or it will be fatal,’ and the rest is up to them,” he said.
Instructions for making and using the machine will be given to Exit Australia’s 3 000 members at their regular euthanasia workshops.
Nitschke’s first suicide machine was a computer program called Deliverance, which automatically administered a lethal dose of barbiturates to consenting users.
It was used to assist four suicides in the Northern Territory during the world’s first, though shortlived, right-to-die law, which were quashed by the Australian senate in 1997, eight months after it was introduced.
Nitschke said that he was happy to court controversy until the spread of the devices forced a change in the law.
“If politicians don’t get off their backsides and do something about this we’ll see these things becoming more and more common,” he said.
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