A euthanasia campaigner today demonstrated for the first time a prototype do-it-yourself suicide machine designed to kill with a few breaths of carbon monoxide.
The machine, a sealed container with some plastic piping and hoses, mixes two ingredients to produce carbon monoxide.
The deadly gas is delivered to the subject through a thin transparent plastic hose.
Dr Philip Nitschke, who developed the machine, said it was designed so people who wish to take their own life could build it at home cheaply.
He told a 'mercy-killing' conference in Sydney, Australia that it would allow people to take control of the final stage of their lives.
“Ascetically it’s troubling, but physiologically it’s peaceful,” said Nitschke, founder of the pro-euthanasia organisation Exit.
“Dying is a natural process like child bearing – you can do it yourself and you don’t have to have a white coat and nurses standing alongside the bed,” he said.
Outside the conference, members of the anti-euthanasia Right to Life movement demonstrated against Nitschke – who they have branded Dr Death – and his machine, which is simply called CO Generator, using the chemical symbol for carbon monoxide.
Police were present to maintain order around the conference.
Exit, which has more than 3,000 members in Australia, runs workshops advising terminally ill people on how to commit suicide. The average age of members is 75.
Teams of Nitschke supporters will demonstrate how to make and use the CO Generator to workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in August.
Mary Joseph, from the Australian Federation of Right to Life Associations, says marketing suicide as easier and more pleasant will only attract more people to that option.
“To have suicide promoted in such a blatant way is a real attack on the fundamental fabric of our society,” she told Australian radio.
Assisting people to die is against the law in Australia but Exit exploits loopholes in state laws to run its workshops.
Nitschke had planned to first demonstrate his machine in the United States in January to a national meeting of the Hemlock Society in San Diego.
But Australian Customs officials confiscated the device as he left the country. Federal laws ban the export of any instrument that can assist suicide.
Nitschke made headlines around the world in 1996 when Australia’s Northern Territory province legalised mercy killing, and he performed euthanasia on four people.
Prime Minister John Howard’s conservative federal government later overturned the provincial legislation.