Last week, news about a controversial 'suicide pod' being approved by the medical board in Switzerland went viral. According to reports, Switzerland had given approval to 3-D printed suicide capsules that could be used by those wanting to end their lives. As it turns out, no such suicide pod has been approved by any agencies in Switzerland.
According to reports carried by several media organisations, Switzerland's medical board had approved the use of 3-D printed suicide capsules known as 'Sarco Suicide Pods' that can be legally used for assisted suicide.
What is the Sarco Suicide Pod?
The Sarco Suicide Pod has been created by a non-profit organisation called Exit International which advocates voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. The 3D-printed pod, when activated by the user, becomes flooded with nitrogen until it fatally reduces the oxygen levels inside.
The pod can reportedly be operated by the user from inside the pod. According to reports, in order to avail the facility, candidates would first have to take a survey and confirm that the decision to take their lives was their own. The Daily Mail reported that the person would then be required to answer certain pre-determined questions and press some buttons to start the process. News of the pod becoming legal in Switzerland went viral across media platforms.
Did Switzerland really approve the use of such a pod?
Assisted suicide is permitted in Switzerland under certain conditions. However, the Sarco Suicide Pods have not been approved for use in the country. SwissMedic, the government agency in charge of regulating medical products in the country, confirmed to Associated Press that it had not approved the Sarco capsule.
The pod's creator Nitschke also confirmed that no such approval for a suicide pod had been sought for the SARCO Pod. A legal consultation carried out by Exit Internationa with a third party determined that the Sarco Pod did not need formal authorization or license to be used. According to reports, Nitschke has claimed to be in talks with several organisations in Switzerland to launch the pods.
There are currently two prototypes of the product, which are not being offered for sale or use. It has not yet been tested, though Nitschke has said a third prototype could be operational in early 2022.
Then why did everyone think Switzerland approved the Sarco Pods?
The confusion seems to have its genesis in a misleading headline published by a Swiss media platform last week. Switzerland's SwissInfo, a division of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, published an interview with Nitschke with the headline "Sarco suicide capsule ‘passes legal review’ in Switzerland.” On Wednesday, the headline for the same story was changed to: “Sarco suicide capsule hopes to enter Switzerland,”. The news platform also shared a note by the editor explaining the change and other edits.
Another Swiss news organisation Watson.ch also ran fact-checks on the claims of Swiff authorities approving the use of Sarco pods and found them to be untrue.
But by the time the corrections came, it was already too late. Several media and news organisations had already picked up the headlines and spun out stories. The news was widely shared on social media platforms as well.
Will Sarco Pods be used in Switzerland?
According to reports, scepticism continues to exist around the Sarco Pods even among the pro-assisted suicide community in Switzerland. EXIT, another non-profit organisation that has been in the forefront of offering assisted suicide facilities to people in Switzerland has observed reservations against the pod.
“EXIT does not see ‘Sarco’ as an alternative to the physician-assisted suicides that EXIT carries out in Switzerland,” EXIT was quoted by Snopes.com as saying. The group's representatives have also raised concerns about the legalisation process of the pod. “It is unclear what the exact content of the legal opinion for legalization is,” EXIT Vice President Jürg Wiler was quoted by AP.
What are the rules for assisted suicide in Switzerland?
Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland under certain conditions. While active euthanasia not allowed, assisted suicide is legal when means of suicide are being offered by another person to the one seeking death without any selfish motive. The person seeking suicide must also be in a condition to make decisions. Active euthanasia by injecting lethal medicines is not permitted. However, providing means of suicide to a person seeking it may be permitted.
Assisted suicide is mostly carried out with assistance from a physician and is called 'PAS' (Physician-Assisted Suicide). The Sarco Pod, however, if approved, will reduce the role of the physician even further by introducing AI.
(With inputs from AP)