Are there any truly painless ways to die? Unless you slip away in your sleep, most natural deaths are painful ordeals. Trying to kill yourself in an attempt to quickly and painlessly end your life is an even worse idea, and likely to end in pain and injury.
Are there any truly easy ways to die? Let’s take a look at some of the most common methods people choose to end their own lives:
Note:This is an article intended for entertainment purposes only. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please talk to a professional. You can get help at 1-800-SUICIDE, or by seeking out a counselor or suicide prevention center in your area.
Getting Shot In The HeadGetting shot in the head can certainly be an instant, painless death – assuming the bullet passes through the brainstem. But its not unusual for people to survive being shot in the head. In fact, it is surprisingly common for a bullet to enter a person’s head without causing death. Approximately 5% of people who get shot in the head survive. Of course, the % of people who get shot in the head and don’t die instantly, but eventually succumb to injuries is likely much higher.
How do people survive getting shot in the head? The answer is in the details – first of all, any shot to the head where the bullet doesn’t injure the brain is likely going to be survivable, unless a major artery or vein is hit. Even if the brain itself is injured, the brain is structured in a way where different sections are responsible for different aspects of your daily function – one part may be for consciousness, another for spatial awareness, another for language, another for touch, another for sight, etc. Because of this, damage to the brain caused by a bullet is not always guaranteed to cause death – at least not instantly.
There are a surprising number of gunshot victims who take a bullet straight through the frontal lobe and survive, coming out surprisingly well. In other cases, the damage can be devastating, causing loss of sight, chronic pain, impaired motor function, nerve damage, mental retardation, loss of memory, paralysis, loss of language ability, or brain death.
Death by HangingA perfectly executed hanging is believed to be quick and painless. This is a hanging method known as a long drop, where officials carefully calculate the drop distance required to instantly break the subject’s neck. They take into account the person’s gender, height, weight, and build. The goal is to let the subject fall far enough to generate approximately 1,000 – 1,250 foot pounds of torque directly on the neck as the noose jerks tight.
In an “ideal” long drop, the sudden torque from the noose dislocates a neck bone known as the “axis”, which severs the spinal cord. Blood pressure to the brain drops to 0 in approximately a second, after which the subject loses consciousness. Death itself can take a few more minutes to occur as the brain is slowly starved of oxygen, but the person remains unconscious.
However, the situation described above is an ideal hanging performed by professionals. When something is miscalculated, or when performed by an amateur, the cause of death is usually strangulation or suffocation. This usually takes several minutes and is a much more painful, excruciating experience. Depending on how the noose is tightened around the neck, the carotid arteries may be compressed, slowly cutting off blood flow to the brain. The noose is also likely to compress the trachea, which can be extremely painful and will also cause suffocation. Depending on the exact circumstances, the person eventually goes unconscious after several seconds or minutes, after which death sets in after approximately 5 to 20 minutes.
Jumping Off A Tall BuildingAssuming you jump off a tall enough building, is turning yourself into a human omelette a painless way to die?
In theory, jumping off of a tall building – say 25 stories or above – onto concrete should ensure a sudden death. But is it really pain-free? If you fall face first, then theoretically you shouldn’t feel anything at all. Even if you hit feet first, you’ll be travelling at a fast enough speed that you’ll only experience a momentary flash of pain before your brain splatters on the pavement.
But while you might not experience physical pain if you dive head first out of a 25th story window, the psychological pain can be enormous. How do we know this? Because people have jumped from extreme heights and survived; in the 2006 documentary, “The Bridge”, Eric Steel examines suicides off of the Golden Gate bridge.
The deck of the Golden Gate bridge is 245 feet above the waters below. The fall takes 4 seconds, and most jumpers hit the water going at a speed of 75mph. Most jumpers either die from impact trauma, or drown shortly after. However, around 2% of people manage to survive the 245 feet plummet to the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay. Unanimously, those who jumped and survived said that they instantly regretted the decision as they fell. They discovered that as they fell, their seemingly insurmountable depression seemed to lift away, as they realized that nearly everything in their life was fixable – except for the decision they had made to jump.
Overdosing on Sleeping PillsAnother method that people commonly associate with a painless death is overdosing on sleeping pills. In theory, this should ensure a painless death since the person falls into a deep sleep before dying, right?
Not so fast – depending on the drug, an overdose may also cause massive pain and shock as your heart fails before the sedative effects of the drug ever have a chance to get to work. The body struggles furiously for oxygen before the brain goes numb and the person falls asleep, likely to never wake again.
Additionally, your body is designed to fight off poison by forcing you to throw up. If you do throw up, there is good chance you’ll expel enough of the poison to avoid an instant death. However, the damage to your livers and kidneys can result in an extremely painful, drawn out death from liver failure – amongst a number of other nasty consequences.
Running Your Car In The GarageCar exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide gas. While its harmless in open areas where it can be ventilated, leaving a car running in a small, unventilated garage can effectively create a deadly gas chamber. But does this ensure a painless death?
Carbon monoxide gas does have the effect of making the victim sleepy, so it is possible that you could fall asleep before the carbon monoxide in your blood stream starves your brain of oxygen, causing death. However, if the carbon monoxide doesn’t kill you, the long term effects can include paralysis and brain damage. In the short term, carbon monoxide poisoning can also cause headaches, nausea, and breathlessness, in addition to dizziness and loss of consciousness.
Based on our research, there doesn’t appear to be any way to guarantee a painless death. There is even strong evidence to suggest that lethal injection – the most effective method our government has devised to kill people efficiently and painlessly – is not painless.
Instead of worrying about the pain of death, perhaps we should focus on enjoying the precious time we have. Eat, drink, and be merry – until your number is finally called.