The inventor of a machine designed to painlessly end the lives of elderly or very ill patients has claimed it could be legally used in the UK one day.

Dr Philip Nitschke developed his SarcoPod “suicide machine” after watching dying patients’ lives being ended with overdoses of painkillers.

The device – a futuristic coffin-like chamber which can be filled with a colourless, odourless gas –is designed to give users a “slightly tipsy” feeling that soon results in a painless death.

“The original idea came from the UK,” he says, referring to the case of Tony Nicklinson who fought a legal battle for the right to end his life after being paralysed from the neck down due to a stroke in 2005.

“His argument was that he couldn’t commit suicide because he had locked-in syndrome and was so disabled that he wasn’t able to do what he claimed an able-bodied person would be able to do, that is kill themselves,” Dr Nitschke told LadBible.

He says he was asked if he could design a simple device that could be operated by terminally-ill people with little or no outside assistance.

Under current UK law, anyone found guilty of assisting in the suicide of another person, no matter what their motives are, can be jailed for up to 14 years.

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The laws in other countries, for example in Switzerland, are much more forgiving in the area of assisted suicide:

Dr Nitschke said: “There’s no legal reason in Switzerland why you can’t just go in and say ‘look, I’m 70-years-old and I just feel like now is the time to die’."

But the kinds of drugs used in assisted dying operations in Switzerland are very tightly controlled in the UK.

However, Dr Nitschke’s SarcoPod simply uses nitrogen which, he says, “is readily available anywhere.”

And so the doctor’s company Exit International, plans to sell blueprints for the SarcoPods, which can then be constructed by the end user and – at least on paper – legally used.

“If we give people the program so that they make their own device, that’s something which would not be considered to be in breach of the laws of most countries,” Dr Nitschke claims.

So technically, he says, “it would be possible to use [the device] in the UK."

The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for comment.

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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