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The BBC's Rebecca Carr
"An everyday laptop but with grim modifications"
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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Euthanasia machine comes to UK
Euthanasia machine BBC
Euthanasia machine was used to kill four patients
A euthanasia machine used to kill four terminally ill people in Australia is about to go on public display in the UK.

The lethal injection system, linked up to an ordinary laptop computer, was used during the short-lived period of legalised euthanasia in Australia's Northern Territory.

Are you certain you understand that if you proceed and press the 'yes' button on the next screen that you will die?

Euthanasia computer
Dr Philip Nitschke, a campaigner who pushed for the legislation in the first place, attached a needle to the patients' arms and they were then asked three times by the computer whether they wanted to go ahead.

The final question read: "Are you certain you understand that if you proceed and press the 'yes' button on the next screen that you will die?"

If they pressed "yes", a fatal dose of drugs was delivered to the patient.

The machine will now go on display at the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum in London in July.

Dr Graham Farmalo, at the museum, said: "One of the things that is guaranteed from a look at this equipment is that people will pause to think about euthanasia."

Lethal injection

Bob Dent, a terminally ill cancer patient, was the first person to take advantage of the legislation, introduced in 1996. He received a lethal injection and died on 22 September that year.

Three more patients received lethal injections from the equipment before the Australian Federal Government overturned the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act.

Under the Northern Territory law, two doctors had to confirm a patient was terminally ill and suffering unbearable pain before life could be ended.

A psychiatrist had to confirm the patient was not suffering a treatable clinical depression.

Dr Nitschke published final statements from the patients he helped to die on the internet. He says they vindicated his actions.

Shortly before he died, Bob Dent dictated the following passage: "I can do little for myself, and require 24-hour nursing care. My haemoglobin has fallen to 8.3 (normal is 13.5 to 18.5).

"My red cells are decreased in number and deformed because of the cancer in the bone marrow. This anaemia causes shortness of breath and fainting because of the cells' inability to carry the required oxygen.

"An attempt was made to alleviate the symptoms of the anaemia, by giving me two units of a healthy person's blood. The procedure took all day, was uncomfortable, and did no good whatsoever."

The Pro-Life Alliance Party criticised the decision to display the machine.

Bruno Quintavalle, founder of the party, said: "Euthanasia remains, thank goodness, a criminal offence in this country and one can certainly question the motivation or even the legality - behind this initiative.

"In the context of an ongoing series of forums on ethical issues associated with medicine and technology, there might be a place for such an acquisition.

"But when we suggested that the new Wellcome Wing should also house a gas chamber, suction abortion machine, and suchlike, our proposals were not greeted positively."

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24 Feb 00 | Health
Euthanasia deaths 'not easy'
11 May 99 | Euthanasia
Lessons from Down Under
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