Helium inhalation promoted by internet
suicide and euthanasia sites is becoming a significant factor in Australian suicides.
In an article in the Journal of Forensic Sciences reviewing suicide in
Australia from 1985 to 2009, researchers report that there were no deaths from
helium for the first 15 years. But there were 30 between 2001 and 2005 and
another 79 between 2005 and 2009. “Given the availability of helium and the
recent promotion of this method of suicide, it is quite possible that this may
represent a newly emerging trend in suicide deaths,” they write.
The overall rate of suicide has not changed
in Australia or Sweden – it is the leading external cause of death in Australia
-- but death by suffocation with helium may be preferable to hanging or other
methods, as it is “relatively simple, fast, non-disfiguring, and painless”. It
is also very hard to detect.
“If the plastic
bag and other materials have been removed, and in the absence of an impression
or ligature mark caused by fastening a plastic bag around the neck, the cause
of death may be incorrectly attributed to coincidental underlying disease.” ~ Journal
of Forensic Sciences, Mar 1