Chemicals suicide vs helium gas death

Exit doesn’t publish ‘how-to’ information on its website – that is reserved for the literature and workshops. But a twenty second google search will tell you how to end your life with helium. Only slightly longer is needed to find the materials for death by household chemicals. Ironically, the most specific information available online is often provided for suicide prevention such as emergency services learning to cope.

Let’s be clear about a few things:

  • Any death is regrettable – in the sense that good life is preferable to death. We want for others what we would want for ourselves, even when we are not able completely to respect that some people would want very different things for themselves than what we would want.
  • Persons who can be encouraged to desist from suicide on the basis that their life can become worthwhile should be encouraged and empowered to live.
  • There is a qualitative and quantative difference between persons who are ‘suicidal’ because of temporary emotional disturbance and those who are ‘suicidal’ on account of unbearable and unrelievable suffering.
  • Availability of suicide methods information does not affect the the number of suicides. If young Tommy wants to go to the Golden Gate Bridge to jump off, it’s only human to try to dissuade him. But if he has made up his mind to end his life, he will simply use another means – possibly more painful and undignified, possibly even one that will endanger others.
  • Although the methods of ending one’s life using helium are not complex, Five Last Acts II  provides the most detailed, thorough and easy-to-follow instructions published worldwide. The helium section alone provides 24 illustrations, with step-by-step information. It has been described by the World Federation of Right to Die Societies as, “the most comprehensive guide to self-deliverance techniques available.” (Exit’s experience and knowledge in suicide methods goes back further than any other organisation in the world.)

As with anything, the waters are easily muddied. Spending some time on the underground newsgroups (not the whiter-than-white ‘right-to-die’ ones) shows people from both camps, emotionally disturbed and unrelievably ill, getting desperate. They are particularly intimidated or worried by the ‘high tech’ approach by some advocates. So let’s make a few more things clear:

  • You do not need two tanks of helium to end your life by suicide
  • You do not need a special valve to adjust the flow
  • You do not need a commercially made bag (such as a Gladd bag’)
  • But you DO need to calmly assess whether it is WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO.

We have repeatedly seen people research the subject and find the array of information, special equipment and warnings simply too much. They look for something simple and turn to chemicals. Suicide from household chemicals is on the increase but:

  • Suicide with household chemicals (usually to produce a lethal gas) is potentially very unpleasant and can involve extreme suffering before death occurs.
  • Suicide with household chemicals risks hospitalisation and even death for innocent bystanders, even when you put up warning signs.
  • Suicide with household chemicals requires more planning than helium.
  • The cost difference should not be a factor – a tank of helium costs maybe £25 more than the household chemical people are using, maybe less. On one occasion when we sourced the items needed for chemical suicide vs helium suicide, helium worked out cheaper – additionally, all the items are fairly straightforward to obtain; whereas obtaining the chemicals often involves many different sources and the names can cause confusion and doubt.

Before deciding on either option it might be worth looking at other ways. Effective pain control doesn’t appear out of the sky. Making a fuss – including a loud noise – is more likely to result in effective treatment than just lying there. Far more pain can be treated than is treated. If you are suffering from paralysis, it might be worth looking at the lives of those who have, surprisingly, discovered they can live a full life after paralysis. Give it time if you can – like a broken love affair, the initial emotional reaction doesn’t disappear overnight. Wait until you are fully able to assess things calmly. The same goes with a sudden diagnosis.

  • Don’t do anything rashly.

In cases where you are emotionally traumatised or suffering due to inadequate social support (housing, welfare), a similar rule applies: make a noise! If people realise something is very, very wrong, so wrong you are planning to take your own life, they will be jolted into action. They can’t always make things right, and can’t always do it straight away, but a large proportion of depression is eventually treated effectively. What seems like an unbearable life event today is less unlivable a few months in the future (and that could mean many more moths – even years – of fulfilling life).

For those who are unconvinced, let’s look at some facts . . .

  • Seven police officers were hospitalised last month after farmer died  using chemicals.
  • After 72 of the documented cases of chemical gas suicide since 2008, at least 80 percent resulted in injuries to firefighters, police officers, emergency workers or civilians. This is in spite of warning signs attached to the inside of vehicles used for suicide.
  • Panic-mongering over helium is mostly ill-founded. One writer on an underground blog reported that the gas was so horrible he had to stop after a few seconds. Anyone can easily disprove this by taking a single breath of helium – it is tasteless and odourless and causes no gasping for air. Panic-mongering tends to push people towards more horrible of suicide, not prevent them trying to end their lives.
  • ‘Medicalisation’ of suicide can also increase panic-mongering leading to similar results. There is no need for fancy equipment. Careful persons might want to look into the details, but don’t be frightened into thinking painless death is a horribly complicated matter and go driving your car off a cliff. Calm down, go through it carefully so you have no fear, then go through the emotional issues even more carefully. Be at peace with yourself. Be at peace with those you leave behind. If necessary, phone the Samaritans (anonymously and confidentially) or the Befrienders.
  • Exit does not encourage  suicide. We want to empower those who have (or may have in the future) a rational desire to control the timing of their own demise. Similarly we want to empower those suffering from a temporary emotional or social disturbance to recover and to live a long and happy life. The two are not mutually exclusive.
  • For most people who find out how to end their life peacefully and with dignity, that in itself is not the main benefit. The main benefit is the knowledge; the courage it brings. For many people, knowledge of death means being able to live longer.

Further reading:

Five Last Acts II
Seven police officers hospitalised
The chemical suicide phenomenon
Hollywood suicide points to chemical danger
Chemical Suicides Increasing in U.S.
Coroner: Bath salts present in both involved in murder-suicide
Officials warn that chemical suicides are on the rise
Imperialist Suicide Epidemic in India
Recession’s wake finds more youth suicide
Women’s copycat suicide flat is so toxic police have to wear chemical protection suits 24 hours on
Death tied to vapor whiff
Revisiting Impulsivity in Suicide

This entry was posted in palliative care, self deliverance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Chemicals suicide vs helium gas death

  1. D says:

    Thank you for this.
    This was so needed. I have to say that I agree that having the knowledge about HOW to end your life is actually empowering. It means you are more likely to endure things as you know that if you become helpless, you never have to be at the mercy of other people’s compassion (or not!) Once you have a way you trust and that is accessible you do not need to scour forums or search desperately for the ‘perfect pill’ (which doesn’t even exist) at the expense of living and salvaging whatever of life you can.
    This is why I must thank you for your continued effort to dispel all the myths and fears created about certain methods, like helium. All this hype about flow rates and gagetry (which is so difficult to get your head around) has driven people to ‘supposedly’ simpler but more dangerous methods that are also harmful to others.
    So please keep never give up on this sevice to humanity that you are doing

  2. gh says:

    You acknowledge how the waters are muddied, how people are afraid of all the high-tech stuff and just want what is simple, and then you go on to say what is not needed but not what is needed. But this post is yet another example of everything one finds when searching around. There’s very rarely specifics, nor are there explanations for the steps etc. which means even when you find some information, you might find someone else saying something different and because no one gives a good explanation for each step you can’t tell who is right and who is wrong. Why can’t someone just post the information online? [edited]

      It is our stated policy on this Blog not to give “how-to” instructions online. The information could be misused or used without proper forethought. Various people saying different things? Yes, we acknowledge that, and that is why in our more comprehensive book (The Exit Path) we compare different claims and provide a scientific analysis, with citations to evidence. Both our books are available from Amazon and give good explanations, with crisp, clear, step-by-step diagrams. The shorter book (Five Last Acts II) is still quite comprehensive but is easier to carry around for someone who doesn’t require quite so much analysis of different methods. (We make hardly any money on the books by the way: they are solid works and take a lot of time, research and work to produce.)
      Should rational suicide be quick and simple? Once you understand what you are doing, of course it is: but our aim is to provide the option of a peaceful, painless, dignified end to life, in the face of unbearable and unrelievable sufering, while giving complete reassurance against problems. It is a matter of careful selection. Throwing yourself off a bridge looks easy, but you might end up paralysed or die slowly of injuries, not to mention the trauma you might cause to another person. Death is an important moment in one’s life. Surely it is worth “getting it right”?
      Exit is not an emergency ‘hotline”. In the absence of sound medical provisions and safeguards for assisted suicide, we examine the possibilities for people who need that kind of humane support before an eventual change in the law can be acheived. We were the first organisation in the world to do this (in 1980) and try to carry that same responsibility we have undertaken, in accordance with the law and good ethical guidelines.

    • Firstly we stay within the law. Secondly, a quick, “simple” answer is rarely sufficient for all eventualities. Thirdly, we don’t wish the information to be quickly accessed by children or unstable people. We provide what has been heralded as “the most comprehensive information available worldwide” –– the most recent book for instance (The Exit Path, which by the way we do not sell directly) is over 800 pages with exact detals and many illustrations and diagrams. There’s also a shorter edition, or for those wishing a quick, easy read, there is Derek Humphry’s best seller, ‘Final Exit’, or other popular books.

  3. Timothy says:

    I have found Wheelie Bin 200L garbage bags good for keeping odours out of the Wheelie Bin. Too I have found a well fitting half face respirator comfortable for long periods spray painting.
    I agree there is no reason to be scared

  4. After checking the Blog statistics I notice many people access old posts, whereas the place to get up-to-date information is the current posts.

    If you have searched for “helium” please note the most current concerns (especially 2015 onwards, and especially for persons living in America or Australia). If you have searched for “chemical suicide”, we re-emphasise the dangers of this method (which anyone can read by reading stories of failures on the Internet or understanding the relevant data). There is a temptation just to look only at successful attempts where a ‘knock-down’ effect is achieved. The exact amount and speed of gas released is not a completely known factor as there is no compulsion on manufacturers to disclose technical specifications of the products. Failed attempts demonstrate the very unpleasant symptoms of the knock-down not occurring quickly.

  5. will nist says:

    Speaking up loudly had the opposite effect on being treated for terrible pain for me. I was locked up in a disgusting sadly understaffed hospital after initially taking both verbal and physical abuse by the local police. Suicide numbers will in quick order break their promises and call the same police who have already abused you. After being locked up I was immediately deprived of the small amount of pain medication I was receiving and not even given OTC drugs. Also was forced to lie in a bed that was so bad it made the pain in my back even worse then it was. The police were cowards and used punishment for acting in the way you champion. I’m done with false compassion from thugs with badges and those who take orders from them or bow to them.

    • I am saddened to hear of your experience. It is difficult to say what prompted the police to act in the way that they did but there are examples we have reported where their actions have seemed callous. They mostly follow instructions but are required to intervene where they feel an offence is possibly being committed or to ‘protect’ a member of the public (his particularly applies to chemical gas which can cause serious injury to others). With regards to suicide hotlines, we recommend the Samaritans for those with access to their service as they cannot trace calls (this from my own experience of training) and will only know the deatils that any particular caller tells them. With regards ‘speaking out’ we advise a thorough awareness of the existing law so as not to fall foul of it (unless you wish to be a martyr!). Additionally, it will put a doctor in an untenable position sometimes to make your feelings in the matter known if the doctor suspects that you may intend suicide. Consider everything very carefully.

Leave a comment on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s