A “Suicide Bear”? Japanese Invention Lets You Choose Suffocation, Asphyxia or Lethal Injection

A “Suicide Bear”? Japanese Invention Lets You Choose Suffocation, Asphyxia or Lethal Injection May 6, 2015

By Incry (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Incry (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

How would you prefer to die:  By lethal injection? suffocation? helium asphyxia?

Japanese engineers are trying to give you a choice. A research team has developed “SeppuKuma” (translation: “Suicide Bear”), an assisted suicide support robot which smiles like an innocent cartoon character while strangling, hugging or kissing a patient until he or she is dead. According to a report on iflscience.org:

SeppuKuma, which loosely translates to “Suicide Bear” has robotic arms that are able to carry up to 80kg of weight, hands that are powerful enough to crush human bone,  and roller legs that can retract or extend from a base as necessary when bending to pick someone up out of bed or when maneuvering through tight spaces like doorways.

The robot weighs 140kg and it is powered by specially designed software and advanced actuators (a type of motor that controls mechanisms).  SeppuKuma also offers 23 very different methods one can choose to end their life, including Everlasting Sleep (lethal injection), Pillow Kisses (suffocation), Peaceful Breath (helium asphyxia) and Sleepy time Hug which is where the robotic bear strangles its partner until their pulse stops for 15 minutes.  All of these attributes enable the SeppuKuma to give its patient the power to choose how they get to end their own life. An official from the JSDD says that, so far, robots have never been used for this purpose in any hospital.

“We really hope that SeppuKuma will lead to advances in the Right to Die movement, it’s important to give those who want to end their lives the power to do so in a safe and responsible manner. We intend to continue with research toward more practical robots capable of providing powerful yet gentle euthanasia to elderly people and those battling with either shame or depression,” said Tsuneki Suko, leader of the Artificial Intelligence Systems Research Team at the JSDD-Orient Institute Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research.

Tsuneki Suko, leader of the research team which developed the suicide bear, said,

“The very sleek and friendly look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, forgiveness and cleanliness at the same time.” 

Scientists hope to have a final model of SeppuKuma available for commercial use in the near future.

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In Japan, a land where the suicide rate is escalating, scientists apparently think that allowing patients to self-administer their own demise is preferable to other solutions such as, say, counseling and pain mediation. Japanese culture regards suicide with tolerance, even as a noble tradition. In feudal Japan, seppuku (honorable suicide) was considered in Samurai warrior culture. A warriors who faced inevitable defeat committed seppuku by slashing open his stomach with a sword to release his spirit upon the enemy.

During World War II, Japanese kamikaze pilots who died in “honor suicides” or hara-kiri were considered heroes.

And today’s social media and the internet culture have encouraged a resurgence in suicides among Japanese youth. Since the 1990s, the shinju (suicide pact) has grown in popularity. Known as “Internet group suicide,” the shinju are formed among individuals via Internet forums and message boards. Members of a shinju group agree to all commit suicide at a certain time, utilizing the same method. The prevalence of shinju suicides has caused the Japanese government to respond with a nine-step plan (counter-suicide White Paper) which will, they hope, decrease suicides by 20% by the year 2017.

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The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that while suicide is gravely wrong, we should not lose hope but should pray for those who have taken their own lives:

2280 Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2282 If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

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