Human Exceptionalism

Another Suicide Machine Makes News

The media is abuzz about the creation of a “suicide machine” by a Swiss doctor that let’s people kill themselves at the push of a button. Amazing times in which we live, no? But this is hardly new. Even though he sought a license to engage in human vivisection, Jack Kevorkian broke through to international celebrity with his suicide machine. Why, the media so loved Kevorkian in his prime that Time invited him to its 75th anniversary party where Tom Cruise rushed up to shake his hand!

Phillip Nitschke, Australia’s “Dr Death,” also invented a suicide machine where the despairing pushed a button on a computer. He has also invented the “peaceful pill,” a concoction of common household ingredients that can be used to end life. (The media has quivered over this, but they don’t ask how it was tested. Did Nitschke kill animals, for example? Inquiring minds want to know.)

Then there is the Nu Tech crowd led by Derek Humphry with their suicide machines such as the “debreather” and his instruction in the use of helium and a plastic bag to plunge into the great beyond.

And who can forget the Church of Euthanasia? And the ongoing Internet suicide pacts?

So, this suicide obsession is hardly news. But it should cause us all to ponder why there is so much interest and fascination with self destruction. I think the Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne put it best years ago when he wrote in the Globe and Mail in 1994:

A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.

Or to put it another way, paraphrasing the Buffalo Springfield classic: Nihilism strikes deep/Into your heart it will creep…