While the process of ‘breathing down’ the oxygen level using the DeBreather is slower than sudden immersion in nitrogen that oc- curs when an Exit bag is used (and the time taken for loss of consciousness to occur is longer), the physiology of the death is the same. Death from inhalation in a low oxygen (hypoxic), low carbon dioxide (hypercapnic) environment.
The DeBreather was conceived by Canadian right to die activ- ist John Hofsess, and first described in his publication The Art and Science of Suicide (Last Rights Publications, 1996–2000). Hofsess described the DeBreather as an apparatus adapted from scuba technology.
In 1998, John Hofsess, Gordon Smith (co-inventor) met with Phil- ip Nitschke in Victoria BC in Canada. Together they founded the NuTech research group. At the meeting Smith’s DeBreather pro- totype was demonstrated. Smith had been working on ReBreath- ing SCUBA diving equipment and was credited with developing a KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) rebreathing diving system.
In diving, it is possible to spend a much longer period underwater if the air is scrubbed of carbon dioxide. This way the compressed gas tank needs only to top-up the oxygen that is actually used. The closed system also meant that there was no exhaled air bub- bling to the surface (and disturbing marine life). At the Victo- ria meeting, Smith demonstrated his modified system where no top-up oxygen was provided. The Rebreather was thus renamed the DeBreather. Smith & Hofsess claimed that the device would ‘deplete oxygen and induce death naturally, with no poisons, no compressed gases, and no restricted medications’.