Friday, October 12, 2007

What would be your choice of death?


When I was little I often contemplated and discussed with my friends what would be the best way to end your days? I actually still think about this sometimes. I have often thought to myself that a high fall would be pretty neat, but then again, maybe you don't enjoy that kind of fall the same way you enjoy a rollercoaster… Floating into space is another alternative which have seemed like an attractive one to me. Until today all my reflections had been built on nothing, however, now that I have discovered this article from New Scientist, I am able to make a more informed choice about my preferred death scenario.

According to the article written by Anna Gosline, death is almost invariable caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain. How this oxygen deprivation arises is different from case to case. In the article ten different means of dying are discussed: drowning, heart attack, bleeding to death, fire, decapitation, electrocution, fall from a height, hanging, lethal injection, and explosive decompression. If your main priority is to not experience pain then your choice should be decapitation (a good decapitator is a requirement though), or fall from height. If conducted properly, these two methods will result in a rapid death and hence a minimum amount of suffering. Things can go wrong though. When Mary Queen of Scots was decapitated (see picture), the axeman failed to completely separate the head from the rest of the body in his first three attempts. He eventually finished the job with a dagger… Decapitation is probably the fastest way of dying, however, even an isolated head contains enough oxygen to function for about ten seconds. Hence, just like chickens can run around headless following decapitation, humans can operate their facial muscles. I don't know whether they can also experience consciousness, but I cannot see any reason why not (I wonder what it would feel like to just be a head)…



The "float into space scenario" has become a lot less attractive after reading the article. It seems to be a lot like drowning where you panic because you cannot get any oxygen. Additionally, your body will swell up like in the movie Total Recall (though they probably exaggerated a bit), not very pleasant in other words. Likewise, electrocution and lethal injection, seems to be rather unattractive choices. Electrocution is supposed to knock out the brain swiftly, however, whether this really happens is a matter of debate (the cranium is a good insulator and may thus prevent the bulk of electricity from entering the brain). An active brain will experience horrible pains as a result of the burns and the high current flowing through the body.

In the light of this, lethal injection seem like a much better alternative, at least if the dosing is right. Before getting the actual killer substance convicts are given a large dose of anesthesia and after that they won't feel a thing. The problem is just that occasionally the given dose is too small and then this alternative is no longer very attractive. Finally, falling from height does seem to be a fairly good alternative. At terminal velocity (the velocity you reach before the wind resistance balances the gravitational force), which is about 200km/h, the blow that you experience upon landing is so great that you can be fairly certain of a swift fatal dysfunction in your body, either the heart or the lungs explode or you crack your spine. If you try landing on your head results will be even "better"…

What would you choose?

Ps: I am not suicidal, I find life too facinating to want to kill myself, so you don't need to call any agencies...

3 comments:

Felicia Gilljam said...

I read that drowning is actually a pretty nice way to die, once you get past the initial panic. But then again I assume that as soon as you're sufficiently asphyxiated it doesn't really matter HOW you're being choked...

rasmussenanders said...

I think that in general death is not very bad once you have reached the state where the brain has shut of the functions which makes you suffer. The difference is in how long it takes to reach that state and in that respect I think that decapitation beats drowning. Still, even for drowning we are talking "only" half a minute.

Marissa said...

In Sebastion Junger's "The Perfect Storm," drowning is described as painful. In this non-fiction account of the drowning of six fishermen, Junger draws on his interviews with near-drowning victims for his facts.