Made from plastic containers, the home-assembly machines cost 15 to 20 Australian dollars ($10 to $13.50 US) and deliver the poisonous gas carbon monoxide through plastic tubing to the nose.

"You can just lie in bed, hook that up, close your eyes and go to sleep," said Sandra Milne, who built her own machine at a workshop organised by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of Queensland on Monday.

Milne said she was in good health and planned never to use the machine, which took her around half an hour to build.

Society president John Todd said the machines were part of a campaign to get governments to look seriously at voluntary euthanasia legislation.

A prototype had been tested with a measuring device and produced enough carbon monoxide to cause death.

Just in case

He refused to say what chemicals were used. Members of the group say they plan to keep their own machine and not allow anyone else to use it.

"We could have said there was a complication ... We are very good at lying. We do it all the time"

Frederic Chaussoy,
French doctor who helped a patient to die
 

There has been a long-running public debate in Australia about euthanasia. In January, customs confiscated a machine from Australian pro-euthanasia doctor Philip Nitschke as he tried to take it to the United States for a conference.

The news of the new fast-track suicide machines came as Europe was also consumed by debate over the right to die.

French exposure

In France, the doctor who switched off the life support system of a paralysed man was taken in for questioning by police on Thursday, focusing attention on the widespread practice of secretly allowing terminally ill patients to die.

Frederic Chaussoy, head of resuscitation at a hospital in the northern town of Berck-sur-Mer, has openly admitted responsibility for the death of Vincent Humbert - the blind and mute quadriplegic who died two weeks ago after falling into a coma as a result of an overdose of sedatives given by his mother.

"We could have said there was a complication, that he had a heart attack. We are very good at lying. We do it all the time and we could have kept going with this traditional hypocrisy. But in this case it was better to tell the truth," Chaussoy said.

"A practice of euthanasia could lead to a threat to the life of ill people unable to meet the cost of their treatment and favours the growth of a racist and eugenist logic"

Greek Orthodox Church's statement

The case of Vincent Humbert, a 22-year-old former fireman, crippled in a road accident in 2000, has prompted widespread calls for an amendment to France's ban on euthanasia in order to allow for exceptional circumstances.

However, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has indicated he is opposed to any change introduced as a result of emotional pressure.

Greeks call it blasphemy

Meanwhile, Greece's powerful Orthodox Church condemned the practice as blasphemy, a threat to poor people and a step down the road to racist and eugenist practices.

The Greek Orthodox Church argued in a statement on Friday that "life is the supreme gift of God" and said it "rejects, as an insult to God, any death resulting from human intervention and choice."

The statement added, "A practice of euthanasia could lead to a threat to the life of ill people unable to meet the cost of their treatment and favours the growth of a racist and eugenist logic."

The Church hierarchy said it did not ignore human pain, but believed it could be a "help to redemption" and should be treated by "patience, prayer and human solidarity."