Made of thick, clear plastic and large enough to fit over a person’s head, the “Exit bag” has an adjustable elastic collar that can be tightened to slowly deprive the user of oxygen.
“They are the poor person’s access to a peaceful death,” said Philip Nitschke, the doctor who founded the Exit group.
The bag is an improvement on a design Exit was importing until the Canadian manufacturer was arrested, Dr Nitschke said.
He said the bag and collar were designed so a person went to sleep breathing easily. Once asleep, the collar slipped into place and oxygen inside eventually ran out.
“When these are used properly, they do provide a peaceful death. It is not suffocation, which is a grisly and violent way of dying,” he said.
“You breathe the air very easily but it has less and less oxygen in it.”
Euthanasia is illegal in Australia. Helping people commit suicide is also illegal in the state of Queensland, where Dr Nitschke plans to launch the bags on August 20 as part of his campaign for euthanasia law reform in Australia.
Margaret Tighe, president of anti-euthanasia group Right to Life Australia, described Dr Nitschke’s plan as “alarming” and called on the Queensland Government to investigate.
“There are many vulnerable people in the community who sadly feel that life is no longer worth living,” Ms Tighe said.
Exit, which has 2,300 members, runs workshops around Australia advising terminally ill people on how to commit suicide.
About 500 of the bags will be manufactured in the first run, but given only to Exit members who attend the workshops and are instructed in their use.