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View Full Version : How hard would it be to stab yourself to death?


shigyu
04-19-2008, 12:09 PM
Like, through the heart?

This seems like the most obvious way to kill yourself, but suicides seem to gravitate toward more elaborate/slow measures. I don't know much about anatomy, is this not as easy as I'm assuming it is?

Wee Bairn
04-19-2008, 12:10 PM
Well as anyone who's seen Pulp Fiction knows, you have to go through the breastplate to do so.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
04-19-2008, 01:58 PM
shigyu--do you need help?
Are you alone?
Do you need to talk to somebody?

Stabbing yourself is a very bad idea!

Annie-Xmas
04-19-2008, 02:07 PM
The only person I've heard of who actually did this was disgraced Queens borough President Donald Manes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Manes). He did it when he was put on hold on the telephone. By his psychiatrist.

You cannot make that shit up.

Exapno Mapcase
04-19-2008, 04:02 PM
The big problem is that it is psychologically difficult to stab yourself with the strength and follow-through that are necessary to drive the blade in all the way. Your automatic instinct is to flinch or hold back to spare yourself the pain.

Most suicides approach the problem is a way to give themselves the least pain, to avoid needing to actively rip up their body for themselves, and to not give themselves an out. Guns are irrevocable once the trigger is pulled, as is poison, hanging, jumping off high objects or into the paths of moving objects, etc. Those who commit suicide by slitting their wrists are often found with several not-quite deep enough cut marks before they finally get it right, and failed attempts because of this are common.

The object of suicide is to stop the pain, emotional or physical, the person currently feels. Inflicting deliberate pain on yourself to achieve that end is a psychological hurdle that is next to impossible to overcome.

There are physical reasons as well. The heart is well-protected by bone and muscle; most people couldn't find their hearts in their body to save their lives, let alone end it (that's why stomach pain is called heartburn); the angle to stab oneself in the heart is a difficult one; and the range of motion to get up speed and strength is extremely limited compared to the motions possible when stabbing someone else.

The thought of failing at suicide is a horror to someone who feels so failed at life to try to commit suicide in the first place. That's why plans are often elaborate. They want to be sure. Elaborate plans might be more likely to fail than simple ones just because they're that much harder to get right, but that's the wrong way to look at that. Getting suicide of all things right is the psychological necessity.

An Gadaí
04-19-2008, 04:16 PM
Did Elliot Smith not end his life in a similar fashion?

MLS
04-19-2008, 04:25 PM
How about Hari Kari? Didn't they stab themselves in the abdomen to suicide?

Gary Robson
04-19-2008, 04:44 PM
How about Hari Kari? Didn't they stab themselves in the abdomen to suicide?You mean hara kiri. That was a ritualized suicide, and it wasn't a stab to the heart; it was an evisceration. And since "true" hara kiri was an honor thing, a friend could be available to lop your head off after you successfully laid your intestines in your lap, thus putting an end to an otherwise highly-painful and not-particularly-quick death.

Hellestal
04-19-2008, 04:44 PM
How about Hari Kari? Didn't they stab themselves in the abdomen to suicide?It's actually spelled hara-kiri. And no, that's not how it works, at least not according to an iaido instructor I talked with one time. This is a little gross, so I'll spoiler-box it, but it's actually a disembowelment.
Seppuku is done by creating a doorway out of your belly. Essential, you slice three times, creating three edges of a rectangle. The last edge of the rectangle is a flap that swings open from the pressure of your innards as they make their way onto the floor. So it's not a stab so much as three cuts that only need to be deep enough allow your belly to empty itself. I have no idea how deep the cuts would have to be, but this is still far different from stabbing yourself.

NinjaChick
04-19-2008, 04:52 PM
Wouldn't stabbing yourself in, say, the jugular result in a rather rapid demise? If you start bleeding from one of the major arteries or veins, isn't death pretty much a given within a matter of minutes?

...Or has Hollywood lied to me, again?

Darth Sensitive
04-19-2008, 04:58 PM
He ran into my knife... he ran into my knife ten times
Link. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoCZEmfnE-M)

Gary Robson
04-19-2008, 05:05 PM
Wouldn't stabbing yourself in, say, the jugular result in a rather rapid demise? If you start bleeding from one of the major arteries or veins, isn't death pretty much a given within a matter of minutes?I think you'd be looking for more of a slice than a stab. It would be too easy to miss if you stabbed.

But take another look at what Exapno Mapcase wrote. I doubt if someone committing suicide really wants to go out in a panic, trying to stop the bleeding because he or she changed her mind and just freaked out. Sure, it doesn't take long, but I don't think it would be a very happy exit.

Wee Bairn
04-19-2008, 06:56 PM
The only person I've heard of who actually did this was disgraced Queens borough President Donald Manes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Manes). He did it when he was put on hold on the telephone. By his psychiatrist.

You cannot make that shit up.


And three years later his brother tried to do it the same way, but lived.

Qadgop the Mercotan
04-19-2008, 07:11 PM
Wouldn't stabbing yourself in, say, the jugular result in a rather rapid demise? If you start bleeding from one of the major arteries or veins, isn't death pretty much a given within a matter of minutes?

...Or has Hollywood lied to me, again?
Lied to again.

The major veins are pretty deep, as are the arteries. And you'd need to take out a major vein to be sure of dying from blood loss rapidly. The external jugular wouldn't do it with any great speed or guarantee.

Do an artery, and the odds improve a bit. But arteries are muscular, and tend to spasm, so it's no rapid slam-dunk either, unless you puncture a really major one.

Bleeding is pretty damn messy, too.

Bryan Ekers
04-19-2008, 07:18 PM
Falling on one's sword has been a traditional suicide since Roman times, at least. The key is to position the blade and let gravity rather then your own strength do the work.

jovan
04-19-2008, 07:22 PM
This is a little gross, so I'll spoiler-box it, but it's actually a disembowelment.
I's not quite as your write it: you would typically go across and up to form a sort of cross. One important and relevant technical point about seppuku (hara-kiri) is that you're supposed to push the handle with the palm of your left hand. This is because your muscles will tense up so much that it will be very difficult to plunge the blade in. Apparently many cases of amateur seppuku end up with people slicing their palm as their right hand slips off the handle.

Another case of suicide by stabbing was the lead signer of the Québec band Les Colocs, Dédé Fortin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dédé_Fortin).

Triskadecamus
04-19-2008, 07:48 PM
How to threads on suicide technique strike me as a very very bad idea, even if the participants themselves are not contemplating suicide.

Tris

Wee Bairn
04-19-2008, 08:08 PM
The OP forgot to add that this is for a character in a book he's writing.

samclem
04-19-2008, 08:14 PM
How to threads on suicide technique strike me as a very very bad idea, even if the participants themselves are not contemplating suicide.

Tris
As a moderator, I can appreciate your position. It boils down to a question of judgement, and I tend to let these moral questions run. I have shut down a thread in the past where it was more obvious that the OP was possibly contemplaing suicide.

samclem GQ moderator

Sublight
04-19-2008, 08:21 PM
It's happened by (rather dumb) accident as well:
http://darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2005-04.html

Deputies arrived quickly, but Christopher had already bled to death from self-inflicted stab wounds to his chest. An autopsy determined that he had stabbed himself in the chest twice. The first wound apparently didn't look dangerous enough, so he tried again. The second time, the knife plunged into his left ventricle. This wound was plenty dangerous: he had only two minutes to live.

Colibri
04-19-2008, 08:56 PM
shigyu--do you need help?
Are you alone?
Do you need to talk to somebody?

Stabbing yourself is a very bad idea!

[Moderating]

Bosda, we appreciate your concern, but please try expressing it without the use of size-7 font.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Critical1
04-19-2008, 09:12 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Jesse_Bernstein

if you are determined enough and or high/crazy enough then I dont really see it being that much of a problem. the problem would be being that determined or high in the first place.

WarmNPrickly
04-19-2008, 09:49 PM
Did Elliot Smith not end his life in a similar fashion?

Yes. The man was depressed. Probably the heroin wasn't helping matters.

panache45
04-19-2008, 10:32 PM
Those who commit suicide by slitting their wrists are often found with several not-quite deep enough cut marks before they finally get it right, and failed attempts because of this are common.
I've heard (from an EMS worker) that this type of suicide also fails because people cut across the wrists, rather than down the length of the blood vessels. Is this true?

SSG Schwartz
04-20-2008, 01:02 AM
Like, through the heart?

This seems like the most obvious way to kill yourself, but suicides seem to gravitate toward more elaborate/slow measures. I don't know much about anatomy, is this not as easy as I'm assuming it is?

It would be very difficult. The reason being is that the person has decided that there are no more links to life and that death is the only solution. It would be difficult because the victim would have to decide that this course of action would be the only acceptable solution.

It would also mean that the victim had no one to contact to get a sounding board. The victim would have to believe that not a single poster to this board would respond to a PM.

Of course, if this is all hypothetical, then disregard the post.

SSG Schwartz

Zsofia
04-20-2008, 11:06 AM
There was a freak accident perhaps a month ago in Anderson when a father was making lunch for his two young sons and cutting noodles in a pan with a steak knife. He burned himself, jerked back, and stabbed himself in the heart. He died on the phone with 911, with the little boys still there.

Also, in the recent case with the missing couple from Atlanta at Hilton Head, the suspect financial guy sliced his femoral artery and also stabbed himself in the chest a couple times. There was some suspicion of foul play in the newspaper because of that (it's kind of a weird way to kill yourself) but I never heard any more about it, so one assumes it was legit.

AuntiePam
04-20-2008, 12:02 PM
A friend is visiting (from Beaverton, Oregon -- haven't seen him for 15 years!) . I don't know how we got to the subject, but he told me about a friend who killed himself by cutting his throat. The medical examiner said it took at least three tries, three deep cuts.

Annie-Xmas
04-21-2008, 07:23 AM
If we are including throat slashing, let's not forget SNL'sCharles Rocket (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Rocket#Death). I wonder if after he did it he said "Fuck"

HMS Irruncible
04-21-2008, 07:56 AM
Lied to again.

The major veins are pretty deep, as are the arteries. And you'd need to take out a major vein to be sure of dying from blood loss rapidly. The external jugular wouldn't do it with any great speed or guarantee.

Do an artery, and the odds improve a bit. But arteries are muscular, and tend to spasm, so it's no rapid slam-dunk either, unless you puncture a really major one.

Bleeding is pretty damn messy, too.
What about a deep slice in the inner thigh to the femoral artery and vein ? I have read (sorry, forgot the source) that this can cause you to bleed to death in under 2 minutes.

HMS Irruncible
04-21-2008, 08:02 AM
deleted duplicate

shigyu
04-23-2008, 07:07 PM
Well as anyone who's seen Pulp Fiction knows, you have to go through the breastplate to do so.
Yeah, what was that all about? I've never heard a reference to an anatomical "breastplate".

(not killing myself, just academic)

TokyoBayer
04-23-2008, 07:37 PM
One important and relevant technical point about seppuku (hara-kiri) is that you're supposed to push the handle with the palm of your left hand. This is because your muscles will tense up so much that it will be very difficult to plunge the blade in. Apparently many cases of amateur seppuku end up with people slicing their palm as their right hand slips off the handle.Apparently, the pain was often unbearable, and not many were able to do much of the ritual. From what I've read, a surface cut on the abdomen was sufficient before the second was allowed to lop off the head.

Qadgop the Mercotan
04-23-2008, 08:10 PM
What about a deep slice in the inner thigh to the femoral artery and vein ? I have read (sorry, forgot the source) that this can cause you to bleed to death in under 2 minutes.
If you manage to hit it, it can be fatal.

But it's a deep target, most folks don't have the will to stab themselves that deeply, nor the will to keep fishing around for the right structures if they don't get it on the first thrust, nor is it a sure thing that you'll die if you it hit (but it'd be the way to bet).

Now, if someone else is committed to severing your femoral artery and vein with a sharp knife, then you're in some serious trouble!

jovan
04-23-2008, 08:14 PM
Apparently, the pain was often unbearable, and not many were able to do much of the ritual. From what I've read, a surface cut on the abdomen was sufficient before the second was allowed to lop off the head.
In later times, when seppuku was more a method of execution than anything else, a fan was sometimes used instead of a sword.

Khampelf
04-23-2008, 09:33 PM
Apparently many cases of amateur seppuku end up with people slicing their palm as their right hand slips off the handle.




Amateur seppuku?


Are we to infer there are professionals??!! :eek:

Whatever they're paid, it's not enough.

jovan
04-24-2008, 01:38 AM
Amateur seppuku?


Are we to infer there are professionals??!! :eek:

Whatever they're paid, it's not enough.
Well, I doubt anyone ever listed seppuku artist as a profession. However, back when this practice was a bit more common, people who were likely to run in a situation where it might be needed to slice yourself up did train in the proper way to do it.

ToeJam
04-24-2008, 01:54 AM
Yeah, what was that all about? I've never heard a reference to an anatomical "breastplate".

(I've always wanted to say this)
The Master Speaks (http://www.straightdope.com/columns/050218.html)

TokyoBayer
04-24-2008, 09:13 AM
Well, I doubt anyone ever listed seppuku artist as a profession. However, back when this practice was a bit more common, people who were likely to run in a situation where it might be needed to slice yourself up did train in the proper way to do it.There have been questions to how common seppuku was, either professionally or not. If a person were sick, then they weren't expected to perform the ceremony. Some people managed to be sick for quite some time, which then effectively became a house arrest.

As my mother used to say, if you're sick enough you can't go to school, then you're sick enough you can't go out and play.

Finagle
04-24-2008, 11:58 AM
There are physical reasons as well. The heart is well-protected by bone and muscle; most people couldn't find their hearts in their body to save their lives, let alone end it (that's why stomach pain is called heartburn)

Actually, it's esophageal pain, and it's not called that because people don't know where their hearts are, it's called that because the nerves in the viscera are pretty bad at localizing pain. So the pain can be referred to other areas, including the cardiac region.

Can Handle the Truth
04-24-2008, 04:17 PM
Falling on one's sword has been a traditional suicide since Roman times, at least.Actually since at least 1000 BCE (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Samuel%2031:3-5;&version=47;).

ShibbOleth
04-26-2008, 04:02 PM
Just found this thread because I thought it might have been about this case in San Francisco (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24327162/) which I read about this morning:

De la Plaza, 36, was found last June with stab wounds to his neck, chest and stomach. Strands of hair were stuck to the fingers of his left hand. And yet, neither a bloody weapon nor a suicide note were found. Blood was tracked from the kitchen, through the living room and out the front door.

Nothing was missing from the apartment, and a security camera in the front of the building showed de la Plaza coming home alone. His doors were locked.

The homicide detectives' theory _ which strikes his family and friends as unlikely, even absurd _ was that de la Plaza took drugs, stabbed himself, then washed or disposed of the knife before dying.

So, to answer the OP, at least the SFPD think it's plausible, even if the French Authorities have their doubts.