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A doctor and his death machine

Sydney, Jan. 7 (Reuters): Australia’s leading euthanasia advocate Dr Philip Nitschke, who has helped several terminally ill people end their lives, will fly to the US tomorrow to unveil his latest death machine.

Nitschke will present his device, which allows a person to breath in pure carbon monoxide to hasten death, at the national euthanasia conference of The Hemlock Society USA in San Diego starting tomorrow. “It produces pure carbon monoxide for a person who is suffering and decides it is time to end the suffering. It will produce a peaceful death,” Nitschke said today. Nitschke said the unique aspect of the simple machine was that it could be used for therapeutic purposes, as it can also produce oxygen, and, therefore, could not be declared illegal.

“That was one of the design requirements,” said Nitschke, who took a year to design and make the prototype machine with research funding from the American Hemlock Society.

“It will have a strong warning that if you put in different chemicals it will produce a peaceful death. So it just becomes a strategy, somewhat cynical, but a strategy nevertheless to frustrate any attempts at legislative control.”

Nitschke gained international attention in 1997 when he assisted four ill patients to die in Australia’s outback Northern Territory under the world’s first voluntary euthanasia laws.

The four used a death machine invented by Nitschke that allowed them to administer a lethal injection via a computer. Using a computer programme called “Deliverance” the patient hooked up an intravenous drip linked to a computer that asked three questions. The final question informed the patient they would die if they answered “yes”. Australia’s national government overturned the Northern Territory’s 1996 euthanasia legislation within months. Euthanasia is now illegal across Australia and it is illegal to help a person die.

Despite the law being overturned, Nitschke has continued to run euthanasia workshops around Australia explaining to people how to end their lives using specialist equipment or drugs. His latest euthanasia equipment is what he calls an “Exit Bag”, a plastic bag with a drawstring which a person places over the head to suffocate.

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