Rational suicide using a tank of helium and a helium hood in a car (in a secluded place where discovery and interruption is unlikely) is a peaceful and painless method if anyone should be in a situation where suffering has become unbearable and unrelievable. Living with inlaws can mean problems of privacy and, with the way the law is interpreted in the UK, possible charges against anyone also present.
But seeing a gas tank in a car can cause alarm among emergency services – who are becoming increasingly concerned over the popularity of ‘chemical gas suicides’ or other dangerous and flammable gases that could cause severe injury to bystanders. Workshops by Exit cover all the main methods of rational suicide, but with the increasing trend on chemical gas suicide, certain facts were laid bare. Exit’s biochemist researcher has been pointing out that chemical gas suicide, unlike helium, is a lottery where pain-free death is hard to predict and with odds stacked against.
Although there are a number of dangerous gases used for suicide, with chemical gas suicide, a person mixes household ingredients in a large bucket to produce highly toxic hydrogen sulphide (the gas associated with a smell of rotten eggs). A few lungfuls of hydrogen sulphide at sufficent concentration will produce death very quickly: the problem lies in ensuring sufficient concentrations quickly enough. At lower concentrations, the lungs are scarred painfully as the gas burns from inside, producing an indeterminate period of intense suffering before death occurs. This burning of the throat and nostrils is almost certainly accompanied by shortness of breath, increased mucus production and heart palpitations. Add to these symptoms: probability of intense eye irritation, nausea, vomiting, coughing, breathing difficulties and convulsions. In other words, a very unpleasant death.
There is a vast amount of information on chemical gas suicide on the internet, but the logic is fatally flawed. “Manufacturers of these products may vary the formula without notice. Not only may the amount of gas produced vary considerably, but the speed at which it is produced varied.” Short of testing the actual samples to be used in a laboratory, it is hard if not impossible to predict that enough gas will be produced quickly enough to ensure painless death.
Helium – the popular choice among members of right-to-die societies – is harmless to bystanders, non-flammable, lighter-than-air, tasteless, odourless, and of consistent, known quality. It can be breathed normally with no ill-effects for the moments before unconsciousness and death occurs (many people have experimented and proven this by breathing helium at parties to obtain the single noticeable side-effect – a higher-pitched voice: this is not something we recommend!) Death occurs not from poisoning, but from lack of oxygen content.
Hydrogen sulphide is everything that helium is not. Foul-smelling and tasting. Highly toxic (large numbers of emergency personnel have been injured). Heavier than air (pedestrians down-wind have been injured). Highly flammable – a spark from a cigarette lighter or rescue cutting equipment could cause an explosion. Worst of all, if death is not instant, it is likely to be very painful.
In spite of warnings, hydrogen sulphide suicides are on the increase, with another one in Scotland just a few days ago. Workshops last week in London (Thursday 28th & Saturday 30th July) demonstrated safe and painless methods of rational suicide, but warned against novel trends such as chemical suicide that have neither scientific backing nor consideration for the lives of others.
Toxic gas suicide in Scotland Edinburgh Evening News
Chemical suicide probe East Lothian Courier
Chemical suicide – a safe response – includes statistics) – a Police training newsletter
Chemical suicide – Dallas Post / police report
Failed chemical gas suicide attempt (includes news report on video)
Helium suicide in a pick-up truck Long Island Press