Plastic bags designed to help terminally ill people commit suicide were launched in Australia by a doctor today.
Opponents reacted angrily, saying the Exit Bags would push up suicide rates among the mentally ill.
Made of thick clear plastic, the bags have an adjustable elastic collar that can be slowly tightened to cut off oxygen to the user.
Dr Philip Nitschke, who founded the pro-euthanasia group Exit, said the bags are the only option for people lacking the money or connections to kill themselves with drugs.
The group is only distributing the free bags to its members who attend suicide workshops and are instructed in their use.
Nitschke, speaking at the bags’ launch in Brisbane, said he had received orders for about 150 of the bags.
Euthanasia is illegal in Australia. In Queensland, helping people commit suicide carries a maximum life sentence.
"Attempts in suicide are cries for help from desperate people," said Mary Joseph, spokeswoman for the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations.
"If Philip Nitschke gets his way, these desperate people will not get the help they need."
Queensland state leader Peter Beattie described the bags as distasteful in the extreme.
But he said his government could not ban them.
"If the government were to ban the bags, it would also have to ban numerous products freely available today which could be used to inflict injury or cause death if consumers used them incorrectly - for example knives, bricks, razor blades and the works," he said.