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Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences Hardcover – February, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Pub (February 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786704926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786704927
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,185,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

This is essentially a guide on how to commit suicide, or alternatively, stage a ``safe'' suicidal gesture. Stone (who has studied pharmacology at George Washington University Medical School and the National Institutes of Health) offers little backgroundpersonal, occupational, educational, familial, religious, or otherwisewhich might help readers absorb this work into some kind of useful discussion. Stone does set out his basic premises: first, that it is each person's right to make decisions concerning his own death, and second, that most decisions to commit suicide are due to temporary problems and are therefore tragic mistakes.'' Stone goes on, in a pragmatic, almost cold-blooded, tone to set out an immense amount of information on suicide and attempted suicide. He delineates four groups of people who attempt to kill themselves: rational people facing an insoluble problem, usually fatal illness; those acting on impulse, temporarily miserableand often drunk; those who are irrational due to depression, schizophrenia, or alcoholism; and those who are making a desperate bid for attention or help. Stone also looks at issues around terminal illness and euthanasia. In Part II, he explains the following methods of killing oneself: asphyxia, cutting and stabbing, drowning, drugs, chemicals, poisons, electrocution, gunshot, strangulation, hypothermia, and jumping. He includes explicit instructions on how to go about each method, and what the likely physiological damage will be if the attempt fails. Difficult as all this is to take in, there is moreinformation on how to make a relatively safe suicidal gesture will certainly confound readers, as will descriptions of autopsy results and asides on the strange and various ways people hurt themselves. The technical information here is accurate. But to approach such a stunningly painful, morally loaded, politically hot subject constructively, we need more than information. We need to know who our guide is, how he has come to this place, how and why his view was formed. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From the Author

I place suicide attempters in one of four groups: (1) Rational people facing an insoluble problem, generally a fatal or debilitating illness; (2) Impulsive people, frequently young, truly but temporarily miserable, sometimes drunk, who wouldn't even consider suicide six months later; (3) Irrational people, often chronically alcoholic, schizophrenic, or depressed; (4) People trying to make a safe gesture as a "cry for help" or to get someone's attention.

The first group---and most of us will eventually be in it---has, in my view, the right to decide the time, place, and manner of their death. It is clear that a competent person who really wants to kill him- or herself can almost always do so. However, seriously ill or physically impaired people often have both the greatest interest in, and least ability to carry out, suicide. I believe that they ought to have medical help to die peacefully and without pain if they so choose; but this, while sometimes surreptitiously done, cannot at present be relied on.

Many of us have known people who have suffered long, agonizing deaths because they became too ill to kill themselves and their physicians were unwilling to act on their request. I will not mince words by calling it "euthanasia" or "self-deliverance": if you're terminally ill, I hope to provide you with information that will help you determine the best way to kill yourself, if that's your well-considered decision.

What about the young and impulsive, particularly teenagers? At the moment, they seem to have the worst of all worlds, where: (1) lethal and not-so-lethal suicide methods are readily available; (2) neither they, their parents, nor their teachers are likely to know how dangerous particular methods are; (3) personal ("Are you thinking about...?) or practical ("How would you go about...?) discussion of suicide is largely taboo.

While many schools now teach about AIDS and its transmission, many more teenagers will attempt or commit suicide next year than will become HIV-infected. The ignorance, stigma, and fear about suicide would decrease if that topic were added to the curriculum and treated honestly.

What of "irrational" people? They too face a lack of information on suicide methods. Will they sit down and read a book before acting and will they choose more (or less) lethal methods as a result? No one knows. The most relevant data show that in the year after the publication of an earlier suicide-methods book, "Final Exit" there was a small increase in the number of people using the book's recommended methods (from 3477 to 3751), but a small decrease in the overall number of suicides (from 30,906 to 30,810). This is consistent with the notion that "Final Exit" merely shifted the method used by about one percent of suicides; but it can't resolve the possibility that the overall number of suicides would have decreased without the "recommended methods" increase.

As for the fourth group, those trying to carry out a "safe" suicidal gesture, the information in this book can only be beneficial.

A case will be made that people shouldn't commit suicide and that, therefore, a manual telling them how to go about it is pernicious. This is like one of the arguments against sex education: "If they know how, they'll do it." Well, they do it anyway. Thirty thousand suicide deaths a year in the U.S. should make this clear. In the absence of knowledge about suicide methods---and the consequences of failed attempts---people will continue to act in desperation and ignorance, as they have throughout recorded history, with gun, rope, blade, poison, and anything else available. That is the reality. And the methods people use all too often leave them neither dead nor fully recovered, but maimed and permanently injured: paralyzed from jumps, brain-damaged from gunshots, comatose from drugs.

But for anyone considering suicide (or even "safe" suicidal gestures; nothing is 100 percent reliable), I urge you to try every alternative first---and then try them again. These include a variety of anti-depressant drug therapies, various flavors of psychotherapy, electroshock, and "reality therapy"---helping people worse off than you. Each of these will work for some; no single solution will work for everyone. That's why it's vital not to give up if one or two or three don't do much to decrease your pain. How do you know that suicide is the best solution if you haven't tried everything else first? You can always kill yourself later.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

455 of 460 people found the following review helpful By insteadlaugh on April 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences" by Geo Stone is a cookbook. But instead of teaching you how to make a soufflé or Peking Duck, it has recipes for death. Like any good cookbook, the methods are clearly categorized by chapter (such as asphyxiation), and each has step by step instructions, as well as medical background about how it works, how difficult it is to do, what could go wrong, and what to do in each case to ensure lethality.
There's no nonsense here. You won't be talked down to or patronized. It's accurate and precise information written by a doctor who has studied each method. This makes it an important and interesting book because there is very little accurate information on this subject available. Dr. Stone is clear to point out that there are many misconceptions about suicide methods in the general public. And if you're going to play with fire, don't you think you it is wise to know what you're doing?
Just like any cookbook the author does not make tangential remarks about why he made this book. But there is an underlying message of personal responsibility here that can be gleaned from the book's introduction and Dr. Stone's dark humor.
Part One of the book describes suicide in broad terms, speaking of the different kinds of people who in the past had made successful or unsuccessful attempts. And there's a clear warning that due to lack of information some people who didn't really want to die, end up making the tragic mistake of using a method that is much more lethal than intended. The reverse warning is also here: That for those who wanted to die, and took action without clear thought often results in waking up in an Emergency Room with a damaged body or a slow and painful death.
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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
(...)this is a book about which it's hard to be neutral. If you think that suicide is always wrong, a sin, or a crime, you won't like it: the book provides lots of "how-to" information that can be used to commit suicide. But at the same time there is an anti-suicide thread running through the text---time and again, the author suggests delay, alternatives, and medical treatment, so the in-your-face pro-suicide crowd (small, but vocal) won't be happy either. Further, the author's website contains, among other things, lots of grisly photos that seem intended to discourage suicide.
Unlike Gaul, the book is divided into two parts. The first half is an overview of suicide, covering history, causes of suicide (considered through sociology, psychiatry, and biology), American and Dutch end-of-life medical practices, and a few related areas. Compressed into a little over a hundred pages, this broad coverage is not terribly detailed but functions well as a summary and is both interesting and well done.
The second half describes, with sometimes weirdly-fascinating factoids, what is known about suicide methods (the "how-to" part) and their medical consequences (the "why-you-probably-shouldn't-try-them" part). If you're interested in suicide methods, this is the best source of information available. If you're not, there's far more information here than you want to know. Trust me.
The book's layout is poor. References are in the back organized by chapter, but pages in the text don't have chapter headers, so it's easy to lose your place, whilst flipping back and forth. Footnotes are at the end of each chapter instead of at the bottom of the page, another annoying practise, and there are a surprising number of typso. <g>
In sum, if you want to know why people kill themselves, there are better sources. If you want to know how, this is your book.
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67 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the definitive book on the subject, exhaustively researched, and yet quite readable...
As I read this book, I was struck that this is not so much about suicide, as about self-determination (...). I began reading this out of a sense of professional obligation, but quickly found the book surprisingly interesting. There is a wealth of detail presented, with the solid and sobering information relieved by the often wickedly amusing (albeit occasionally warped) footnotes.
While the "how to" sections are quite graphic, the reader can readily find areas of interest through the clear chapter subheadings, and thereby skip those that might be either too gory or too technical. But the detail presented is here out of necessity-for how else can the individual make an informed decision?
This book clearly does not advocate suicide. It provides individuals with the information to make a better decision about their future. For example, if someone wishes to make a gesture, it gives them guidance about appropriate choices that will not leave them off in an even worse state.
As a physician, I was a bit put off by the author's criticism of docs. I think he underestimates the chilling effect the threat of professional criticism and repercussions has. Of course, there is also the effect fear of more serious legal action (eg charges of murder) has on the willingness of physicians to be more active in this area. This extends to efforts in the area of pain relief (such as by providing adequate doses of morphine) which are often inappropriately criticized as excessive. Also, as he notes, docs have been very poorly educated regarding pain control.
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