Euthanasia machine, Australia, 1995-1996
“If you press this button, you will receive a lethal injection and die in 15 seconds – Do you wish to proceed?” You may think this sentence is from a science fiction movie but in fact it is the final question asked by “Deliverance”, the software that controls this ‘euthanasia machine’ which was developed by Australian doctor Philip Nitschke. If you answered “yes”, you would receive a deadly dose of drugs through a needle hooked up to your arm. But what would make you strap yourself to such a machine in the first place? Voluntary euthanasia – where a patient asks for their life to be ended – is illegal in almost all countries. Doctors who have assisted such suicides have been imprisoned despite claiming to have acted on their patients’ wishes. Some say that euthanasia should stay illegal because it is morally wrong or because of the potential danger of patients being pressured into ending their lives. Others argue that everyone should have the right to die with dignity and that no healthy person can understand the suffering undergone by someone with a terminal disease. They say that such patients should be given the choice of ending their own suffering, and given the help and advice needed to do so quickly and painlessly. This actual machine helped four people die in Australia’s Northern Territory, in accordance with a state law which came into effect in 1996. Within a few months this law had been overturned to make euthanasia illegal. However, as the 21st century progresses and many countries experience and increasingly aged population, euthanasia will almost certainly be an issue of much ongoing debate.
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Glossary: euthanasia machine
Euthanasia is the action of directly causing the quick and painless death of a person with a terminal disease. It is illegal in most countries and is a controversial subject. In most cases it is performed as part of the patient's wishes.