by Andrea Moury
On Friday, Newsweek magazine published an article with an intriguing title: “Meet the Elon Musk of Assisted Suicide, Whose Machine Lets You Kill Yourself Anywhere.” Interviewing Dr. Philip Nitschke, the Newsweek author provides an advertisement for his new, top-of-the-line product, a “luxurious” killing machine:
The Sarco is sleek—and, Nitschke stresses, luxurious. It resembles a spaceship and is intended to convince its user that he or she is journeying to the great beyond. Its base contains canisters of liquid nitrogen and a removable capsule compartment that can be repurposed as a casket. The whole operation will be open-source and could theoretically be 3-D-printed anywhere in the world. It is, in short, the Model S of death machines.
The 70-year-old Australian doctor tells Newsweek that as a young medical school graduate, he was influenced by none other than Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the notorious “Doctor Death” who was convicted of second-degree murder for helping kill at least 130 people.
Ever since then, Nitschke has been relentless in his quest to create death machines. Over the years he has created “The Deliverance,” a laptop hooked up to an IV system that delivers lethal drugs, and “Exit Bag,” a breathing mask which replaces oxygen with carbon monoxide.
In 1997, when Australia repealed the bill that had legalized euthanasia, Nitschke turned his attention to politics, founding Exit International, a nonprofit organization advocating the legalization of euthanasia around the world. With Victoria becoming the first state in his home country of Australia to re-legalize euthanasia on November 22, Nitschke is hoping his newest invention will be a success when it hits the market next year.
The Sarco is even superior to his other inventions, Nitschke brags. It is more appealing than his last product since it doesn’t bear what he calls “the plastic bag factor: People don’t want to leave the world in such an aesthetically displeasing way.” In contrast, after the access code is entered, in a matter of minutes, the capsule fills with liquid nitrogen causing a “relatively painless” aesthetically pleasing death.
According to Nitschke, it is the “right of a rational adult to have a peaceful death,” and even those in good health who simply feel they have had a good life and are ready to go have that right to death. By appealing to “rights” Nitschke tries to claim the moral high ground. Don’t be deceived, however.
Suicide should never be glamorized as “aesthetically pleasing,” “luxurious,” or a “journey to the great beyond.” Such language undercuts the praiseworthy efforts of men and women working tirelessly to offer hope in the form of counseling and 24/7 suicide helplines. How can a society promote suicide in some cases while hypocritically trying to reduce the skyrocketing teenage suicide rates? What is it about a doctor’s signature that magically makes assisted suicide “noble” and “dignified”? If we accept such rhetoric, we can no longer in good conscience mourn a troubled 15-year old’s suicide as a tragedy.
Furthermore, assisted suicide is especially abhorrent in its tendency to diminish the worth of the elderly. In his interview, Nitschke specifically entices them by asserting that “every person over the age of 70 should be able to die.” But a person’s worth does not suddenly disappear once he reaches his 70th birthday.
Here at The National Pulse, I’ve covered the topic of assisted suicide numerous times over the past few months (see here, here, here, here, and here). It’s a topic which needs to be addressed now more than ever as the push for the legalization of assisted suicide is accelerated by inventors and entrepreneurs looking to make money off of others’ pain and suffering.
Taking a life, be it someone else’s or one’s own, is objectively wrong. Whether or not it is legal, is approved of by a doctor, or is done in a “luxurious” way makes no difference. But suicide is more than just a moral wrong. It is a heartbreaking tragedy. Normalizing and glamorizing it does nothing to change that fact.