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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 May, 2003, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Suicide machine unveiled in Sydney
Delegates inspect the machine
The machine was unveiled at a conference
Australia's leading euthanasia advocate has unveiled a suicide machine which promises a quick death to those who want it.

Philip Nitschke's invention delivers a lethal dose of carbon monoxide pumped through a tube from a mini generator.

He displayed the machine at a conference in Sydney called "Killing me Softly", organised by the lobby group Exit Australia and attended by mainly elderly people.

Dr Nitschke told the packed conference hall that the most common method for the elderly to commit suicide was by hanging, which was a grim and undignified way to die.

His insisted his invention would offer a more humane alternative which even the weakest would be able to operate.

Euthanasia was briefly legalised in Australia's Northern Territory in 1996. Several people died after receiving lethal injections before the legislation was repealed by the federal government two years later.

'Fundamental right'

The new machine consists of a plastic container containing carbon monoxide, tubing and nasal prongs which allow a lethal dose of the gas to be administered within two to three breaths.

Those opposed to euthanasia, who dub Dr Nitschke 'Australia's Dr Death', say the contraption is a frightening development which represents a "blatant attack on the fundamental fabric of society".

But Dr Nitschke insists those with terminal and painful illnesses have the right to choose when and how to end their lives.

"Suicide's not a crime and so if you can suicide peacefully and effectively in the context of serious suffering, that to many people represents the only answer while we wait around for our politicians to move," he told Australian radio.

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