It was only a matter of time before someone would imagine something like this. It’s called “the Sarco,” a capsule designed by Dutch engineer Alex Bannink and activist Philip Nitschke. One model is described as a 3D-printable “death machine” that can be printed out anywhere and activated to induce death when the user chooses.
The glossy sleep-pod-like capsule gives an idea of control and peace. It can be put anywhere the person wishes—by the ocean or in the countryside. The person punches in a code, which is valid for 24 hours, and opens the machine. Once inside, the suicide happens by pressing a button. Death comes by lowering the individual’s oxygen level inducing a sensation of intoxication causing a “dry drowning” that will take the person to a world beyond.
Of course, most of those who use this machine don’t believe in any beyond. There is only nothingness. The Sarco is the stylish chariot to nowhere, where the person sinks unconsciously into non-existence.
Although news of the machine spread all over the Internet, the actual device is not yet functional. The inventors use models of the device as props to promote their strange idea of death with dignity.
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A Wrong Notion of Dignity
The right to die movement claims that the right to kill oneself stems from dignity. This bizarre dignity is equated with other liberal buzzwords like equality, justice, freedom and choice. By determining the time and place of death, those committing suicide supposedly maintain their dignity and do not allow themselves to be humiliated by death.
Such babble about “dying with dignity” is a corruption of the concept of dignity. Deciding and executing one’s demise does not confer dignity upon anyone. Instead, it confers shame. This is especially true when those committing suicide see nothing beyond death. When life and death become mere mechanical functions with no eternal destiny, everything loses dignity. Such a concept of existence reduces humans to the level of beasts.
Indeed it was Christianity that introduced the idea of human dignity into society. Before, that dignity went unrecognized, and many were reduced to slavery. Because Christendom acknowledged each person’s unique dignity, it became the first major civilization in history to abolish slavery.
A Christian Notion of Dignity
The Christian view of dignity recognizes that every person is special because each is endowed with a soul capable of exercising acts of the intellect and will. These powers of man are not ends in themselves. They help direct people to a meaning and purpose that confers dignity.
What gives humans dignity is what Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the imago dei, the image of God. Each person is made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, those superior faculties of intellect and will have a natural dignity because of their nature. However, that dignity is perfected by its proper use which is directed to a goal which is union with God, of which man is an image.
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Human dignity lies in the capacity for a union of love with God. This union is the only thing that fulfills the dignity of man. No material good can satisfy the longing for fulfillment. Saint Thomas affirms that “Naught can quiet man’s will, save the universal good” (ST I-II, 2, 8). Only God suffices. All else is nothingness.
That is why one cannot speak about the dignity of a mineral, plant or animal. They have no higher end other than themselves. While they must be treated with care and stewardship, they do not have a purpose that confers upon them dignity. They have no free will, and therefore are incapable of merit, love of, and union with God; their existence alone proclaims God’s glory.
The Loss of Human Dignity
The ability to have union with God is what gives people dignity. The rejection of this capacity is what degrades them. Saint Thomas affirms that “a man who sins deviates from the rational order, and so loses his human dignity.”
That is why the chariot of death is a denial of dignity, not a fulfillment, but a sinister rejection of a human being’s natural desire for union with God.
The right to die movement likes to portray itself as a group of people who oppose the abuse of medical technology that can be used to keep extremely old people unreasonably alive by artificial means. They also oppose what they term the excessive suffering of the ill.
Through the use of this distorted image, they introduce the concept of the right to die with “dignity.” From the acceptance of this circumstance, they quickly shift to advocate the case of any person who desires to die for any reason, physical or psychological. They even go to the extreme case of defending child suicide.
Beneath the veneer of false dignity, the most radical activists of the movement express a desire of self-annihilation that is an act of revolt against the Creator. They wish to take away from the Creator the right to give and take life that is part of His sovereignty over mankind. They want to defy God who decreed that there be death as punishment for Original Sin.
This revolt against God reflects the march toward nihilism found in postmodern society. When life has no purpose, then death becomes desirable. When pleasure is no longer possible, it is no surprise that there would be those who would imagine a death machine that would be a chariot to their everlasting perdition.