Why do so many people choose a painful death?

cemetaryMedia reporting has often been blamed for suicide fads. A rock star dies by barbiturate poisoning and others follow. Barbiturate poisoning was generally peaceful and is less common now only due to the difficulty of obtaining the drugs. But other suicide fads tend to be copycat suicide methods independent of whether they are painless.

In various Asian countries, ‘popular’ methods may include poisonous plants or pesticides – both carrying a high risk of painful death. Governments go to great lengths to remove things like strong sleeping tablets from general circulation but are reluctant to withdraw commonly occurring substances or those with high commercial value.

Over 50 investigations into imitative suicides have been conducted. Systematic reviews of these studies have consistently drawn the same conclusion: media reporting of suicide can lead to imitative suicidal behaviours. But does this ignore the question of ‘least worst suicides’? However much or however little publicity a newspaper or website gives to the method used in a suicide, it is rare (if ever) that the same article will point out a less painful method. A method that maybe would not have prevented suicide by a suicidal person reading it, but at least reduced their suffering at the end. It could be that some suicidees feel that the pain they go through to die highlights their unheeded cry for help: yet studies show that many of those who try to commit suicide, for instance, using paracetamol would not have attempted it if they had known how unreliable and painful it could be. Or at least not used paracetamol. (Paracetamol – acetaminophen as it is called in the U.S. – is not only one of the most common methods in the U.K. but one of the least reliable and least painless.)

Similarly with pesticides or – to address a fad that is starting to engulf the West – hydrogen sulfide (or ‘chemical suicide’ as it is often called). While usually lethal, it risks severe distress if the method doesn’t work fast enough. A crime service report lists some of the effects:

• Exposure to low concentrations can cause eye irritation, sore throat, cough, nausea, shortness of breath, and fluid in the lungs.
• Exposure to moderate concentrations can cause fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, staggering, headaches, and irritability.
• Exposure to high concentrations can cause convulsions, amnesia, miscarriage, coma, and death.

Underground suicide sites abound ‘guaranteeing’ that a certain combination will produce an instant death. Yet Exit’s investigations suggest that the science behind such claims is dubious. Deadly: yes. But painless? A lottery. Plus it creates great dangers for rescuers.

The New York Times reported there were 72 chemical suicides in the United States between 2008 and 2011 and that “at least 80 percent have resulted in injuries to police officers, firefighters, emergency workers or civilians exposed to the gas, despite efforts of suicide victims to protect others by putting warning signs on car windows or closet doors.”

Members of right-to-die organizations (such as Exit, or Final Exit Network) mostly investigate these things to gain reassurance for the future, as only a few find they need to take matters into their own hands. This means they investigate thoroughly, and most of them, if they employ rational suicide, will use helium (100% painless).

Our remit is towards those people who are unrelievably and unbearably ill, and for whom all efforts of palliative care have proved not enough. Yet in some ways, does the moral dilemma not have lessons of similarity for both rational and non-rational suicides? No-one should deprive themself of life if they can rationally be persuaded otherwise, whether by the marvels of palliative care or by help to overcome a temporary trauma. But in the end, if someone is going to take their own life, surely humanity should allow it to be as painless as possible.

Do you think ExitEuthanasiaBlog is responsible in the way it reports? Send us your feedback privately or by commenting on this article.

Further reading:
Newspaper report: Chemical Suicides
Organized Crime Research Report on Hydrogen Sulfide
Chemical Suicides – Dangers for First Responders
Factors Affecting the Choice of Suicide Method (academic article)
Suicide in Asia (academic article)
Samaritans Media Guidelines for Reporting Suicide
W.H.O. Resource for Media Professionals

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

3 Responses to Why do so many people choose a painful death?

  1. Marlene George says:

    I read your articles eagerly hoping for a way out. I have decided to end my life not because I am yet terminally ill but have decided that life no longer interests me for a variey of reasons. I have been looking for an easy way out but there is none. I am a member of Dying with Dignity here in Canada, there are of no or very little help. Please, please, do not talk about helium, tubes and turkey bags. The helim method of dying requires technicality ability to undertake and I have none. Instead of talking about methods which do not succeed, let us talk about something that does other than the helium method. Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2013 22:20:28 +0000 To: marlene5140@hotmail.com

    • Response from Exit

      Exit recommends being conversant with SEVERAL methods of self-deliverance. The title in the Five Last Acts series refers to the main methods that can be adapted to one’s circumstances. We stress that helium is only one of those methods, but it does succeed and is widely used. It is certainly not suitable for many people. The Five Last Acts books do include methods not covered elsewhere, and in great detail, but we don’t post specific “how-to” information on a website where it could to easily be abused. With best wishes, EXIT.

  2. Shandrow says:

    I have colon cancer and I am in the initial phases of gathering more information about my prognosis and what my chances are for a cure, or at least how much longer I have to live before the pain becomes too much for me to handle, and the disabilities caused by the cancer become more than I am willing to put up with.

    I have known several people who died from colon cancer and they were all quite horrible deaths, some of them involving bowel obstructions requiring emergency room surgeries to remove parts of the colon, and then the resulting ileostomy (pooping into a bag, which I have no desire to live that way.) I do not want to die the way they died. The last months of their lives were in pain, humiliation, disability, and finally drug induced comas. I am more than willing to die a month early to bypass that.

    Also, I have very little holding me here in this life. I never married. I have no children. I am not even dating anyone. My parents are both dead. My last remaining sibling is in very poor health, and cannot be expected to take care of me and my needs. And I literally have no close friends, at least not close enough to help me in my time of crisis. So, as my cancer caused disability grows, I would be stuck here in this house, alone, with no one to help me, leaving a hospice dying room as the only real alternative for me, with no loved ones gathered around me at the end saying goodbye to me, just cold, strangers doing their jobs. That does not appeal to me.

    Getting the helium method down right, will take some practice on my part, but I think it is doable. The rhetorical question then is this, how long do I wait until doing it for real? Wait too long and I may not be in any shape to complete the task. Do it too early, and I might miss out on some life left, although it is not much of a life at this point anyways. What I will do is some practice runs to get the method down as much as possible, so it won’t be too difficult to do later on.

    I’m also going to make sure my will is up to date, and that I have the “Do Not Resuscitate” notice ready to go.

    Part of me thinks about moving to Oregon to take advantage of their death with dignity law, but I simply don’t have the funds for it.

Leave a comment on this post

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s