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NON-PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE: THE TECHNOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE OF THE DEATHING COUNTERCULTURE

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This article reports on the 2nd Self-Deliverance New Technology Conference (NuTech), held in November 1999, in Seattle,Washington. Right-to-die activists from six countries met to demonstrate a number of devices for non-medical assisted death and to share preliminary findings on their use. The author attended all sessions of the private conference and received confidential memoranda and papers. An overt observer-as-participant method was used. Five devices for non-medical assisted death were demonstrated. These included three systems for breathing inert gas, a customized plastic bag for asphyxiation called the Exit Bag, and a closed circuit breathing system called the Debreather. Seven deaths out of eight trials were reported for the Debreather and four deaths were reported using the Exit Bag. Additionally, a non-quantified number of deaths using inert gas delivery systems were described by various conference delegates. The systems demonstrated by the NuTech group are designed to induce death quickly and painlessly. In general, they leave negligible, if any, post-mortem evidence of their use.The compulsion to use technology to cause death, the "technological imperative," has emerged as part of underground care of dying persons. This imperative raises serious challenges to the health care professions, legislators, and policy makers, particularly because it has led to a sophisticated, expanding movement of non-medical death providers.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: July 1, 2001

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