Scientifically, What's the Best Way to Die (Without Killing Yourself)? (2022)

If you are struggling with a mental health issue inthe USA call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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For help outside those regions, visitThe International Association for Suicide PreventionorBefrienders Worldwide.


Last week, Dr. Richard Smith wrote on the British Medical Journal website that dying of cancer—of all things—was the best way to go. His reasoning?

You can say goodbye, reflect on your life, leave last messages, perhaps visit special places for a last time, listen to favorite pieces of music, read loved poems, and prepare, according to your beliefs, to meet your maker or enjoy eternal oblivion.

Seemingly everyone in the entire world, many of whom have seen someone die horribly of cancer, immediately called Smith an idiot. Cancer eats your body away from the inside and leaves you a husk of a human. Cancer sucks. There must be a better way to leave the world behind. So what is it?

A few months ago, our colleagues at Motherboard tackled the opposite question, asking what the worst way to die is. It turned out it was basically anything that's slow and leaves you in a hospital bed for your final days. But what's the best way to go? Naturally, by asking that question in the title, I'm begging to be accused of exploiting the googling habits of the severely depressed.

Scientifically, What's the Best Way to Die (Without Killing Yourself)? (1)
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So, if you're thinking of killing yourself please go here. Also note that popular ways to bring about a pleasant form of self-termination like carbon monoxide, the tailpipe hose trick, having a doctor in Oregon give you a drug cocktail, or even plain old heroin overdose, won't get my endorsement today.


Instead, I got to the bottom of the myths and realities about some of the ways to die that people say are great. Most of them aren't. Here's what I learned.

Fantasy Scenarios:

NSFW Warning: The video above features the naked boobs of human women

It's tough to nail down what people mean when they talk about the "best" way to die, but I'll start by entertaining some of the popular fantasy death notions. First of all there's the one in which a person dies gloriously in battle—a notion so silly it has an entire movie genre dedicated to criticizing it.

Then there are the fantasies about doing some sex stuff before your life is painlessly extinguished—a heart attack at the orgasmic conclusion of a blowjob, say, or (as in the video above), being chased off a cliff by topless models (spoiler).

This doesn't really do much in terms of answering the question. First of all, falling off a cliff isn't the answer, nor are falls in general. Sure, landing on your head after falling out of a plane sounds like an instantaneous death, but falls can result in ruptured internal organs and broken bones, making that way extremely painful—and if you survive you'll have to deal with debilitating injuries.

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As for internal causes of death brought on by the exertions of sex, they're often painful. Sudden cardiopulmonary events—embolism, aneurysm, AVM, etc.—can feel like " the worst headache of your life," along with a whole world of weird symptoms like nausea and hallucinations. Heart attacks, as you probably already know, feel like an elephant sitting on your chest.


Sudden cardiac arrest, however, in which your heart just locks up like Windows 95 and the lights go out, is a strong contender for best way to die during sex. However, as a person who suffers from arrhythmia, I can tell you that the feeling of your heartbeat going haywire is unpleasant, like butterflies in your chest and a lump in your throat. I can't recommend that scary sensation during intercourse.

But sexual fantasies culminating in death generally involve a partner, meaning your death will cause another person to suffer. After all, you're causing someone to witness your death, manhandle your naked corpse, and possibly have to touch your dead genitals. It could be a nice way to go in the best of all possible circumstances, like when Matthew McConaughey's dad died having sex with his mom, and she later called it "just the best way to go!" but on the other hand it could turn into the terrifying Stephen King novel Gerald's Game, or that one scene in Clerks.

In any case, I find it more useful to look at more realistic things anyway.

Hypothermia is a long trip that involves much more than shivering and numb skin; some say in the end you feel a sense of enormous well-being, and you'll want to be left to die even if someone tries to save you. That's just (literal) crazy talk, though.

In his book Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance, Peter Stark gives a vivid scientific and narrative account of what it's like to freeze to death. After hours in the cold, as your body starts shutting down, you're likely to start hallucinating, or even feel warm. You might feel so warm, in fact, that you'll rip all your clothes off.


This is because when your body drops below a core temperature of 93 degrees, amnesia will set in. You won't know what's going on. By 88 degrees, you'll stop shivering. At 86 degrees your brain won't be working well enough to recognize your mother's face. It's down in this range, around 85 degrees, where you'll rip your clothes off and possibly bury yourself underneath a snowbank, which won't help.

From there, assuming you're in sub-zero weather, it can still take hours to for your temperature to drop below 70 degrees, the point at which most people die. If you do experience euphoria in that time, it's after you've been through hell and lost your mind. I seriously doubt that's worth it.


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There's a piece of folk wisdom about drowning that you've probably read, and it says that drowning feels like a hug, or like being in the womb. There are famous accounts like the one from the late music producer Michael Case Kissel in which angelic voices told him, "There's nothing to be afraid of." But Kissel's experience sounds atypical.

Your body will do everything it can to prevent you from taking a lungful of water, as you can see from the video above of Christopher Hitchens being waterboarded. After just a few seconds of water down the wrong pipe, Hitchens experienced lasting anxiety and nightmares. (Afterward, he came to the rather no-duh conclusion that waterboarding was torture.)


In The Perfect Storm Sebastian Junger details exactly what happens when you drown. After the decrease in blood oxygen becomes so extreme that you're starting to lose consciousness already, you do finally breathe water. Ten percent of people experience such a strong spasm in their larynx that they die of suffocation without the water reaching their lungs. The other 90 percent will just breathe and breathe and breathe as they slip unconscious. There just might be something pleasant in the feeling of succumbing to the lack of oxygen, but everything that comes before that is literal torture.


With the Islamic State killing journalists, it's no time to endorse decapitation in general as a good way to die. There's no reason to watch the videos, but if you did, you would see that people suffer horribly—and tragically—when their heads are sawed off by hand.

Still, there is something uniquely unambiguous and final about having your head cut off by something as elegant as a guillotine. Medical examiner and author Shiya Ribowsky once told the History Channel that he "can't imagine a quicker and more painless way to go." The blade is only in contact with your neck for 1/100th of a second, and after that, no one survives. Estimates of the failure rate of the Guillotine during the French Revolution vary, but there were as few as one, according to an essay in The Quarterly Review from 1843, and that's out of thousands of decapitations during the Reign of Terror.

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But do you survive long enough to notice that you're just a head in a basket? When you talked about beheadings on the schoolyard, you were probably quoted something like five to seven seconds of life after you hear that loud chopping sound. That's the number Ribowsky quotes as well, and a written account of a beheaded criminal from 1905 describes the decapitated head looking around and making faces for that amount of time, but it doesn't take consciousness to do that. In any case, the blood loss and drastic drop in blood pressure would cause you to lose consciousness very quickly, and you'd definitely never come back.

Still, no one's been executed by guillotine since 1977, and they probably aren't headed for a comeback. What's more, clean guillotine-esque decapitations do happen from time to time, and they're horrifying and gruesome for the people who find your body.

Dying in Your Sleep:
Dying in your sleep isn't something that's supposed to happen, and when young people do, it's tragic, horrifying even. Even heavily medicated, unresponsive cancer patients are typically clinging to consciousness, or at least experiencing something called agonal respiration, when they die. Plus, the onset of a sudden fatal condition like a heart attack would probably wake you up. Dying in your sleep should be rare.

So it's odd how often obituaries list people as having "died peacefully in [his/her] sleep." I'm not the only one who's noticed. Elizabeth Simpson of the Virginian-Pilot found the term strange and launched an investigation. The resulting article is a really good read.


Among the insights she gains about dying peacefully in your sleep:

  • The term is often a euphemism for suicide.
  • Sleep apnea often plays a role, particularly in the elderly.
  • Relatively distressing conditions like strokes and ruptured aneurysms can cause people to die in their sleep later.

But the most interesting thing she learned was that the previously mentioned sudden cardiac arrest, the one caused by your heart just suddenly freaking out, was the most likely culprit in sudden deaths that occur while sleeping.

You can see from the example of Richard Smith, the cancer lover, that not all experts will agree about this stuff, but in sudden cardiac arrest during sleep, I think I have my answer. I know the fluttering sensation of a heart suddenly going off beat all too well. It's a weird feeling, but if that's really what sudden cardiac arrest feels like—and firsthand accounts describe them as painless—having one wouldn't wake me up. If that struck in the middle of the night, and the lights just never turned back on, I don't think there's a better way to go than that.

That or the guillotine.

Follow Mike Pearl on Twitter.

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When victims eventually submerge, they hold their breath for as long as possible, typically 30 to 90 seconds.. Water in the lungs blocks gas exchange in delicate tissues, while inhaling water also triggers the airway to seal shut – a laryngospasm reflex.. Most people who die from heart attacks do so before reaching the hospital.. In about 10 seconds, the person loses consciousness, and minutes later, they are dead.. If you end up losing your head but aren’t lucky enough to fall under the guillotine or even a very sharp, well-wielded blade, the time of conscious awareness of pain may be much longer.. Higher currents can produce nearly immediate unconsciousness.. Strangulation can take less than 10 seconds for a person to lose consciousness, and death can occur in just under five minutes.

Lethal injection is the standard, though a few states allow inmates to choose other methods.. There are five methods of execution still legal in at least some states:. How well it works : If done right, hanging should be quick.. How often it's used : Since 1977, three prisoners have been executed by hanging in the United States, two in Washington state and one in Delaware.. On the books : In nine states, all of which use lethal injection as their primary method. On the books : In Arizona, California, Maryland and Missouri, where inmates can choose it over lethal injection.. How well it works : In a gas execution, the inmate is strapped into an airtight chamber and fitted with a heart monitor.. Lethal gas takes time to kill; witnesses to the 1960 execution of convicted robber, kidnapper and rapist Caryl Chessman reported almost nine minutes of gasping and coughing, according to the Los Angeles Times.. Oklahoma reserves the option in case lethal injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional.. On the books : In 35 states.. How well it works : Thirty-three states use the three-drug cocktail of sodium thiopental for sedation , pancuronium bromide for paralysis, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.. One 2009 execution (of convicted rapist and murderer Romell Broom) actually failed after the execution team gave up searching for a vein after two hours of trying.. How often it's used : 1,054 times since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.. Rosenberg, the Hospira spokesman, said the company does not support the use of sodium thiopental (better known as Sodium Pentothal) for the death penalty, though there is little the company can do about it.

A gun would be quick, but I can't buy one because I've been in a mental hospital.. I can't ask my partner to do it; he never would in a million years.. He doesn't know the kind of pain I go through and I can't adequately explain it to him.. However, neither can I argue that your life is good and should be preserved, as I cannot know how life is for you.. Who am I to say that you should choose to live your life?. What you want to accomplish is an end to your suffering.. So choosing suicide is not at all the sure cure for your ills that you might believe it to be.. Being that you are clearly willing to gamble to relieve your suffering, let us consider other gambles you might take.. For starters, you might gamble that if you wake up tomorrow alive, it may be one of your few good days.. Knowing both that good days will happen and that they will be rare, you might choose to make the most of those few that occur.. On a rare good day, you might also use your wealth to preserve and possibly extend that one good day into two good days or three.. Granted, the odds against tomorrow being a good day are not favorable.. But good days do happen.. At 36 you may have 40 years of life or more in which a cure may be found.. If you also want to give money to the person you live with, you are free to do that.

In other words, the Rosetans kept each other alive.. Orphans left in such institutions will develop behavioral and psychological problems and lose IQ points the longer they stay in the orphanage.. It sounds terrible, it makes people feel like they are losing face, like they are a failure.. But neither crying nor internet surfing can solve this problem.. Sometimes life can feel too hard to bear .. Loneliness kills, but love saves lives.. listen to my heart, not my words. But loneliness cannot be taken lightly, either.

Well, it basically reduces blood flow to the brain .. Well, people who are sleeping often experience no symptoms, and they can die in their sleep .. A myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack, can happen during sleep, though thankfully, the odds are pretty good that this specific type of cardiac event will wake its victim up before it kills them.. Heart attacks happen when blood flow to part of the heart gets blocked.. Dying of an infection is not necessarily common, but sometimes, the symptoms are dangerous enough to kill—even if the victim is asleep.. Basically, the idea behind this danger is that it is a type of drowning that can occur even after the victim has left the water.. The scary thing is that this water can cause breathing problems that get worse over time.. Because it’s among the deadliest types of heart attacks that can occur.. Heart attacks with severe enough blockages result in damaged heart muscle.. People with OSA experience sudden drops in blood oxygen levels when they stop breathing.

My story didn’t end in a hospital bed having my stomach pumped, my wrists stitched or someone grabbing my waist before I jumped.. On the first page I read – "Making suicide look like an accident"; "what’s the best way to kill yourself but make it look like an accident"; "making a suicide like some random accident"; "top 20 suicide methods: fastest and painless suicide methods…". I wanted to take my life, to end the pain, to release those who loved me from the torment I presented them with every time I had a depressive mood.. Life didn’t make sense.. I was in pain and ending my life would take away that pain.. I am one of so many people who have come close to suicide.. Once again, I turn to Google but this time to find stories of survival.. It’s difficult to explain how death would make you feel more alive than ever.. I wish people knew the thoughts will always be there for some, and we deal with it day by day.. I choose life.

There’s a lot more to any individual’s life than just how it ends.. For those who believe in rebirth, the entirety of the person’s life determines how he or she will be reborn, not just the last thing the person does.. When dealing with someone’s suicide, vague speculations about rebirth don’t really help.. Discussing what sort of next life the person is likely to have isn’t supportive, I’d say.. If you’d have asked me before that spring day in 1992, I would have told you it was absolutely impossible for me to do any of the things I’ve done since that day.. My plan was to carry that rope out as far away from people as I could, find a sturdy tree, and do the deed.. I decided to live.. If you’d have asked me before that spring day in 1992, I would have told you it was absolutely impossible for me to do any of the things I’ve done since that day.. But some things just don’t make sense.. It’s hard to let go of these kinds of thoughts.. If you are in need of help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to access free, 24/7 confidential service for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, or those around them.

ODDS OF DEATH: Even if you don't die, it's not going to feel good.. ODDS OF DEATH: we still don't trust them.. THE FEAR: The electromagnetic fields around power lines can give you cancer.. THE FEAR: Lead vests don't protect your head, arms, or legs.. THE FEAR: Bursts of electromagnetic radiation that emanate from the sun during solar flares will take down the power grid.. ODDS OF DEATH: You'll be fine.. THE FEAR: Rogue nations could create the equivalent of a coronal mass ejection (See "Solar Flares") and use it as a weapon to devastate our power grid.. ODDS OF DEATH: Best if you don't make eye contact with North Korea.. THE FEAR: If you aren't careful, anything can kill you.

Often they tell me, “Wouldn’t it be terrible to die in that way from that disease?". “Wouldn’t it be awful to die like that from pancreatic cancer, which is incurable and spreads all over in a matter of months?” Or, “Wouldn’t it be awful to die from burns all over your body where your mind is clear but you know you are going to die in just a few days?” Or, “I would hate to die in my sleep without even knowing that I’m going to die.”. Certain patients who are phobic imagine particular deaths: sitting in an airplane when the wings break off so that they fall through the sky for a full minute, knowing they are about to die.. “Well, I don’t know ... but I know I don’t want to die that way!”. Here's a long list of ways someone definitely does not want to die, according to my patients.. Also, in general, unattractive deaths include any that cause pain, or sleeplessness , or discomfort for family members, or chemotherapy, or endless tests and tubes, or dying far from home.. I placed myself among those who did not want to die all at once.. It usually turns out that patients who are preoccupied and afraid of dying are really afraid of circumstances they associate with dying: being alone and being helpless.. If I persist in asking them exactly how they want to die—given the fact that they will, like everyone, die someday—they usually respond, chuckling feebly, that they do not want to die at all.. In my experience—in the hospital setting—most deaths are more easily managed than many of the other difficulties the dying person has experienced throughout life.. And at the end, those who are dying are not likely to die alone.. In fact, the dying patients I have spoken to confide in me that they wish all the members of their families would not bother to come visiting every day and then talk among themselves at the foot of the hospital bed.

What if you decide, "Today is a good day to die," in a suitably stentorian Klingon voice?. Take ride in a hot air balloon Floating away at the end of your life conjures images of the Carousel in Logan's Run — but you can make it a possibility in a hot air balloon.. With the proper type of hot air balloon, you can reach heights of 20 kilometers , or even 32 kilometers, in a helium balloon.. Falling (or jumping) into a lake of lava will lead to an instantaneous death.. If the lava itself doesn't send you into the great beyond, the deadly plumes of gaseous hydrochloric acid that rise into the air when lava comes in contact with ocean water will.. Visit the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone The "tourist" areas of Chernobyl do not pose much of a radiation threat to visitors, but the abandoned, vegetation-covered roads and secluded areas do.. Eat even more dark chocolate, and increase your chance of a date with death.. Do something you enjoy for a really long time, without stopping A few people have died during long video game binges — with the 1980s arcade shooter Berzerk responsible for twolives while a Starcraft player died after a 50 hour stretch of gaming in 2005.. Ride the roller coaster of death The Euthanasia Coasterdeprives a rider's brain of oxygen to the point of death.. ), find a nice all-you-can-eat buffet featuring the cuisine, and eat until your stomach ruptures.. Climb Mount Everest unprepared Every year, a dozen well-prepared, experienced climbers die while attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest.. Run into a burning building, save some kids and old people, and enjoy some moments of glory.. You might enjoy your time as a vigilante, but the hours will probably come to a swift and deadly end if you are aggressive enough.

Encouraging suicide is illegal in Britain and most other places.. Using one of the kits, a potentially suicidal person can make sure that the drugs he or she plans to use are strong enough to kill.. Nitschke also brought with him the "exit bag" and assorted paraphernalia used to demonstrate killing oneself with a plastic bag and helium.. He says that without his information, most people wouldn't know how to gas themselves efficiently.. Most people at the Brighton meeting are not terminally ill and do not plan to kill themselves anytime soon.. Nitschke says, "Look, the premier drug for ending life is Nembutal, the barbiturate," which is the drug that his kits are designed to test.. If there is, you know you're dealing with Nembutal.". "There's nothing illegal about this kit.. "I was saying things like, 'Why don't you go on a world cruise?. Nitschke says.. "Now, we do not knowingly give information to people who are psychiatrically impaired," says Nitschke, who attempts screen people at the meetings.. And people argue that because that could happen, no one should get the information."

It doesn't hurt that it's such a pretty spot and it's romantic-feeling, and that maybe for the first time in their lives, the suicidal don't feel so alone there.. I thought all those things when I stood in the middle of that bridge one sunny, nearly perfect day in June more than three years ago.. I looked at the water, and I thought about my parents, my wife, my sons back home, maybe having their dinner on their little plastic plates or playing in their inflatable pool, and more inanimate things, too: my suitcase in my hotel room, my glasses on the bathroom counter, my half-finished book on the nightstand with its corner folded over, page 164. Who would pack up my clothes and send them home?. Whenever it was that my own blackness took hold, I didn't feel a thing.. A book I wrote—the same paperback I was supposed to go to San Francisco to promote that June—hadn't been a failure, exactly, but it wasn't what I had hoped it would be, because nothing much was anymore.. Back then, though, I just saw a woman who didn't love me as much as she once did, maybe she didn't love me at all anymore, and two boys who would never have the father they deserved, and I saw everything else, including water that looked like air and green that looked like blue, and not just for days or weeks, but for months and months and months.. I can't really explain why I didn't jump that afternoon, why I eventually returned to the ranks of tourists walking along the Golden Gate Bridge.. I can't remember what we fought about, but whatever it was, it wasn't just a fight.. I never wanted people to know, not because I feel ashamed about it—that would be like feeling ashamed for having bad eyesight or loving jazz—but because I didn't want people to treat me any differently, like I was fragile.. I told him I didn't want to talk about it, which I didn't, at least not just then, over spareribs and sticky rice.. I watched my breath turning solid in the cold, and I looked up at all those little lights in the sky, and I made a wish for me and my friends: I wished that we would always be terrified of death, every last one of us, that we would spend the rest of our lives running from it, that we would dream about dying and wake up screaming, that we would be pathological in our fears—scared of heights, scared of bullets, scared of trains.

These false ideas make us decide to do the destructive things.. I learned very early on that in order to be successful in life, you had to hang out with successful people.. Then do the things that have worked.. People are not rewarded for causing things to happen.. Sometimes it takes a really long time to find people who are similar to you and have the same ideas about things.. Go out and make things happen.. ⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄⌄ Scroll down to continue reading article ⌄Go to that person and find out how they got what they wanted and then go do those things.. It is the difference between being completely effected by things or the powerful cause of things.. People who tell you these things or imply them are NOT your friends.. We cause things.. We cause things that go bad sometimes.. We should just make things right again and go about our business.. If you don’t look at things in present time, you don’t know the truth about them.. If you have a lot of pain in your life, you must over balance it with pleasure in order to be happy.. Do things that you think will give you pleasure even if you don’t feel like it.


1. Why You Shouldn’t Fear Death
2. Casually Suicidal | Sarah Liberti | TEDxAdelphiUniversity
(TEDx Talks)
3. We need to talk about male suicide | Steph Slack | TEDxFolkestone
(TEDx Talks)
4. Switzerland: 'Sarco Pod'- A device to make suicide 'painless' | Latest World English News
5. What dying patients taught this doctor about the fear of death | Fahad Saeed | TEDxRochester
(TEDx Talks)
6. How Doctors Tell Patients They're Dying | Being Mortal | FRONTLINE
(FRONTLINE PBS | Official)

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