(LifeSiteNews) — The headline in the Scottish Daily Express succinctly summarizes the reaction to a recent invention by Australian Dr. Philip “Death” Nitschke: “Outrage as scientist backs gas chamber ‘death pod’ scheme for Scotland.” Nitschke has become notorious over the past several years due to his high-profile promotion of his “do-it-yourself death pods,” airtight capsule-shaped pods in which the suicidal can seal themselves and release a nitrogen gas that will knock them out in 60 seconds and kill them within 10. It is not as swift a death as the lethal injection method but does have the benefit of ensuring that other people do not have to be involved.
Nitschke first marketed his “Sarco” death pods to the Switzerland last year — a prime definition for “suicide tourism” where people can travel to have themselves killed in a variety of spa-like resorts created for that purpose. “Sarco” is short for “sarcophagus,” but the device is designed to look like a spaceship to symbolize the send-off to a new “destination,” as one Swiss suicide provider noted. The Sarco pods have been displayed in the Netherlands and Germany but have only been used in Switzerland. Nitschke hopes that his death pods will become widely available through downloadable designs and 3-D printing.
He is at it again, advocating his 3-D printed invention to the Scots, writing to Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur, who is pushing a so-called “assisted suicide” bill, that his sleek-looking death pods “lead to a peaceful, even euphoric death.” He did not add that he is merely assuming this, as he obviously not given the pod a go for himself. Anti-euthanasia campaigners such as Dr. Gordon Macdonald of Care Not Killing have responded with horror, noting that “(o)rdinary people will be shocked and appalled at Philip Nitschke’s attempt to lobby for the use of his personal gas chamber should Scotland legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia.”
The reaction to Dr. Death’s suicide pods has largely been one of horror, and considering the widespread popularity of laws legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia, I wonder why that is. Perhaps it is not simply the “democratization of dying,” which Nitschke proclaims as his goal — but the technocratic, inhuman method being used. During the decades between Nazi Germany’s euthanasia regime and the Netherlands’ fateful 2001 decision to begin killing some of her citizens once again, these practices were rejected because we had witnessed where they would lead. Nitschke’s little gas chambers, despite their slick design and shiny, “drive off into the sunset” vibe, still look and feel fundamentally sinister. Our culture has embraced assisted suicide, but gas chambers still feel a step too far.
It’s hard to tell how long such instinctual resistance will last, though. After all, Canadian euthanasia pioneer Dr. Ellen Wiebe, who is also an abortionist, was willing to sneak into an Orthodox Jewish nursing home in Vancouver with her killing equipment in her bags to deliver a lethal injection to a patient against the wishes of the institution, terrifying many of the Holocaust survivors who lived there and had dark and awful memories of such practices that lived within them still. When the corpse — and Wiebe’s role in the death — were discovered, she proved unrepentant, stating that her clandestine mission into the Jewish nursing home was the right thing to do. The journalists covering the story were palpably uncomfortable, although they couldn’t quite articulate why.
I suspect it probably has a lot to do with the fact that do-it-yourself gas chambers and lethal injections in Jewish nursing homes are an uncomfortable reminder of what unfolded last time we were comfortable with such practices.