Ins & outs of compression
A slightly worrying variation on the compression method of suicide surfaced recently when a newspaper reported a 15-yr old using a blood-pressure cuff around his neck. He probably didn’t intend to die by suicide – it could be considered a version of the ‘choking’ game, dangerously practiced by teenagers (especially in the USA) to get a temporary high from lack of oxygen to the brain. Unfortunately, a worrying number of such teenage experiments go fatally wrong. Additionally, there is a lack of reliable information on how those who are terminally or unbearably ill can use compression for an effective and painless suicide (of all the ‘right-to-die’ books on rational suicide, compression is only seriously mentioned in two – Geo Stone’s Suicide and Attempted Suicide and our own thoroughly researched volume, Five Last Acts). Although relatively simple, a proper understanding is needed, particularly in order to effect a safe ‘dress rehearsal’ and to avoid blind alleys (of which certain types of blood-pressure cuffs can be one). It is a method so simple that, once mastered, can be used even in hospital or a place where the presence of helium or life-ending drugs would be quickly spotted and the patient prevented from taking their own life. Improper use of the compression method – apart from accidents while learning the technique – can result in a swelling feeling the head or discomfort around the neck. Yet it is not difficult and, as case studies have demonstrated, capable of being used with a wide range of equipment such as might be to hand almost anywhere or concealed on one’s person.
A similar worry also seems to confront people about bags used for helium suicides. A great deal of unnecessary concern has been generated by some activists. Instead of looking for a simple answer, people put faith in something that is expensive or difficult to come by. A custom-made bag is fine – particularly if you are heavily arthritic for instance (though presumably not so arthritic as to be unable to turn a helium tap). But if you can make a a suitable bag yourself – it takes our workshop participants less than three minutes – there is no need to worry about ‘suppliers.’ A nice-sized bag might be better than a large plastic shopping bag, but the ‘technological medicalisation’ of these things can get rather geeky to say the least!
Yesterday, the Oregon Governor signed into law Senate Bill 376, making it a crime in Oregon to assist another person to commit suicide “by knowingly selling a substance or object for the purpose of helping that person take his or her own life.” The main deal was to outlaw ‘Gladd Bags’ as used for suicide when attached to a tank of helium. The maker of the mail order kits, 91-year-old Sharlotte Hydorn of California, had her home raided by the FBI, who confiscated her sewing machine, her computer, and a number of kits already delivered to the U.S. Postal Service. The main purpose of the plastic bags (sold in 100s of thousands) is clearly not suicide. Nor is the elastic. Or the poly-tubing. The law seems based therefore on intent.
Gladd Bags stopped – welcome (??) to Helios Bags ?
One wonders at what stage the FBI would confiscate innocuous materials at a Post Depot. Gladd bags were just plastic bags with some elastic sewn in and a bit of tubing attached. What about just selling the bags? And some elastic? Perhaps some poly-tubing separately?? All these items are easily obtained from Amazon. But a correspondent to EXIT euthanasia blog has alerted us to the existence of a new group that charges from $35. (The group is listed on Wikipedia – Helios.) This group looks bona fide and even has a website on “History of the Exit Bags.” But we stress that they are independent of any right-to-die group. Their adverts are not connected with ourselves, Exit, or with Final Exit (even though they recommend books by both Exit and Final Exit). If they get shut down people will simply have to get the ‘ingredients’ from Amazon or a hardware store! Similarly, following the publicity, this area is wide open to abuse – just like only medications. You send off money and don’t know what you will get (if anything). Send off money only at your own risk. See these comments by persons saying they lost their money.
This dilemma is linked, of course, to the last post. Is making such things available likely to mean someone, who wouldn’t otherwise have killed themselves, end their life by suicide? On the evidence, we think not. But let me present a moral quandary to the opponents of assisted suicide:
The bottom line:
Imagine you are on one side of a armoured-glass screen. On the other side is someone who intends to take their own life. That person tells you quite firmly, “Nothing you do or say will change my mind.” There are two small drawers. One contains a tank of helium and a Gladd bag. The other contains lethal, painful, household chemicals. You can only open one drawer and remove the contents. Which do you take away?