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Journal of the American Medical Association, Dec 8, 1999; Ezra E. H. Griffith, MD; Yale University
At least Geo Stone tells it to you plainly in the introduction to his text. If you are terminally ill, he wants to give you information that will help you determine the best way to kill yourself no mincing of words here. He emphasizes self-determination…Unhesitatingly, he makes it clear that each competent individual has the right to figure out how and when to die. He has no solace to offer should you disagree with his political stance...But you shouldn't conclude that he's encouraging you to kill yourself not so...
...Stone thus spends about 145 pages initially constructing a background on suicide and its derivatives, euthanasia and assisted suicide. His crucial point, made repeatedly, is that there is too much misguided emphasis on making people live longer. This is not out of any humanistic commitment to people but, rather, out of a rigid adherence to ethics-based principles that simply ignore the degree and extent of suffering some people are experiencing.
This is the background to be traversed before transitioning to the book's second part, another 250 pages of stunning details about ten or so methods of killing yourself, including asphyxia, cutting and stabbing, electrocution, and jumping, among others. Did you know that it is more effective to shoot yourself straight through the mouth from front to back than to aim at your face or under the chin? Stone notes that "people tend to flinch or tilt their head back at the moment they pull the trigger, changing the direction of bullet entrance and decreasing the chances of fatal brain damage. . . . " There is no question that facts like these can make for interesting reading, and they're provided for every methodology considered.
...Still, this book is about death, baldly put. It assaults the senses even of physicians. It will shock pastors and teachers and all who preach about the sanctity of life because few of us are accustomed to talking straightforwardly and lucidly about the most successful way to die. Stone's almost celebratory approach to the subject will not win him too many friends. After all, you won't want to call this book to the attention of your children or other loved ones while sitting around the dining room table or just before they go off to university, even if the text itself has intellectual merit.
Non-Fiction Reviews "Author's Look at Suicide May Help Deter It" by Susan Schechter 1/22/02
Not everybody who attempts suicide is actually trying to kill him/herself. Some are just cries for attention, but they may still accidentally be successful anyway. Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences looks at the history of suicide, how it's done, and what the outcome -- intended or not -- might be.
It seems strange to be reviewing a book about suicide, whether it is about the psychology of suicide (called suicidology) or how to commit suicide. But Suicide and Attempted Suicide: Methods and Consequences, by Geo Stone, explains both topics and more. The first half discusses the history of suicide, from the earliest recorded cases both biblical and historical, though modern times. It also covers the psychology and sociology of suicide. The second half reads like a clinical version of Final Exit. And with this bit, the author does the impossible – convinces people not to end their lives.
Stone wrote this book with the purpose of preventing suicide. By describing in clinical, graphic, medical, and gory detail all the different ways to go, the reader cannot help but shudder and get grossed out. And realize that is far more difficult to shuffle off this mortal coil than they may have previously thought.
I must confess, I bought this book a year ago in hardcover, at a major bookstore chain. A friend of mine, an old boyfriend actually, had committed suicide, and I , like anyone who has been left behind by someone who has died by their own hand, was struggling for answers.
Stone takes an attitude much like Dorothy Parker’s (who was a manic depressive herself) often quoted poem “Resume.” All these ways to die are difficult. According to the author, 30,000 people kill themselves in the U.S. every year.
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The suicidal mind takes that question and asks, “What if you have examined your life and found it to be not worth living?” People contemplating death is not a new phenomena. Stone points out there are four suicides in the Old Testament. There are Egyptian writings going back at least 6,000 years of a man contemplating his own mortality and suicide. How many suicides are there in Greek tragedies? All these things are addressed in the first half of the book, in clear language for the layman.
What is startling about this book is that fact that so many times an attempt at suicide leads to unintended consequences, namely death, or permanent disability. Geo Stone states, “Ignorance is dangerous and desperation can be fatal.” The goal of this book is to enlighten, to reduce the number of fatalities and permanent injuries. By describing all the ways to go, the reader realizes that it is more difficult than the movies or TV lead us to believe about dying. It can be quite messy, and if not done correctly, the victim can live and spend the rest of their lifetime in pain from the botched attempt. The book also gives clues to look for to deter teenage and elderly suicides, a growing phenomena.
When I was reading this book I could not help but think of the poet Sylvia Plath, who I admired terribly when I was a teenager. She, according to her biographers, was not trying to kill herself when she turned the gas on in the kitchen of her English flat. She was probably making a cry for help, being home with two small children, her marriage in tatters, and living in a country not of her birth. She miscalculated because gas was not in stoves at that time in the
This is the kind of person the author is trying to help. The suicidal person who does not really wants to die, but to go to sleep and wake up again, to find their problems over. Or the person who is making a cry for help, for someone to notice them and help them get over these problems.
In short, if this is a topic that is of interest, to anyone who likes psychology, or is just fascinated on how the human mind works, this book is highly recommended. But only if you want to know what really goes on in someone’s mind.
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
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 miserable and 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 more information 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.
Reader reviews on Amazon.com
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful:
Not the best book on suicide, but the best on suicide method, [4 stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
...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.
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.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful:
One of the most in-depth book on the subject, [4 stars]
Reviewer: Alvin Ma from
This book contains some of the most insightful interpretation of statistical data and superlative research in forensic pathology.
There are two sections in this book. The first section analyzes the social, psychological and biological aspect of suicide in history and at present time, in the
The second part of the book deals with various suicide methods. The tone in this section is notably different from the first part, as if it is another book by another author. Numerous forensic works are quoted here. However, there are some assertions that seem to me novel and dubious, like the author states, without reference, that the carotid artery is on the right side of the neck and the vein is on the left. [This is my error, corrected in the paperback edition--GS]
While the content of the book is superior, the format is less impressive. The references of each chapter are bundled together at the end of the book; and there's no indication on each page which chapter you are in. This makes it very hard to go from a sentence to its reference. I believe the publisher should be more considerate about the format of this book.
Nontheless, this is a top-notch, definitive work on the subject, infinitely better than Mr. Derek Humphry's.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
A clear, no-nonsense approach to suicide., [5 stars]
Reviewer: firstname.lastname@example.org from
This book needed to be written. There is no better source of information about suicide methods. If you want to know how it's done, what works, and what's likely to leave you a vegetable, this is the place to look.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful:
The most thorough book on the subject. [5 stars]
March 6, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from maryland
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 (something the Kirkus reviewer apparently missed). 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.
I highly recommend this thorough reference work, the most definitive work I have seen on this controversial subject. It is far more than a "how to" manual. It is both a reference book, as well as a thoughtful resource, providing objective information, historical information, and perspective on this difficult topic.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful:
No fuss, down to earth. Lot of curious information., [5 stars]
August 31, 2001
Reviewer: zzzshopper from Seattle, WA USA
I'd say, if you wanna kill yourself some time soon, that book will help you to pick the most efficient method. If you plan to "make a gesture" it'll prevent you from going overboard and actually killing yourself instead of simply striking a posture as intended.
Otoh, if you don't intend anything as dramatic, then still one can pick a lot of amazing information and stats from it, plus it's very easy to read, contains no hifalutin touchy-feely sermonizing whatsoever, could be somewhat helpful in discerning if anyone around you has set his mind on a premarure departure (though it's by no means a main focus of the book), so all in all, I'd say it's a curious book and at the very least is bound to gratify every man's natural curiosity about this somewhat macabre topic.
The book looks thicker than it is because of the bibliography and notes. There's a lot of notes in it, just as interesting as the text itself. The author expresses himself with a kind of dry humor that makes the book even more readable. Not a must-read, but the appropriately curious will not be disappointed.
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful:
If you want information about suicide methods, this is it., [4 stars]
February 21, 1999
Reviewer: A reader from Washington, DC
This is an odd, idiosyncratic, fascinating, uneven, irritating, and important book: there's nothing out there like it. "Suicide and Attempted Suicide" is primarily a study of suicide methods---how people try to kill themselves (or, more often, try to get attention or help). It reads as if it were written by more than one author, or over an extended period of time: the tone bounces unpredictably from didactic to ironic to funny (be sure to read the chapter endnotes!).
The first half of the book touches on a wide range of suicide topics: history of suicide, the legal situation, treatment options, terminal illness, philosophical issues, euthanasia and assisted suicide. The information is interesting and well enough presented, but tries to cover too much ground in too few pages. A reader unfamiliar with this material will find it a reasonable, though patchy, introduction that can be followed up from the author's well-chosen "suggested reading" list.
The heart of the book is the second half, where it discusses suicide methods and their consequences in clinical detail. This treatment will surely be controversial, since the author provides "how to" (and "how not to") information that can be used either to commit suicide or to carry out a suicidal gesture.
I've seen only one other book that takes a similar approach, Derek Humphry's "Final Exit" to which this book will inevitably be compared. "Suicide and Attempted Suicide" is the far more comprehensive and detailed work, which is both its strength and its weakness. There is no better---in fact no other---book that discusses the variety of suicide methods in any significant depth. However the large amount of information comes at a cost: a suicidal reader may have a hard time extracting the data he wants from the mass of data he doesn't need. Similarly, the casual reader will probably find the quantity and details of evidence overwhelming.
The writing style is rather pedestrian, which doesn't detract much from a book of this sort, but occasionally slips into "medicalese" which does. On the other hand there are quite a few interesting and informative asides and digressions. These range from early Christian theological disputes, to minimizing heat loss in marine mammals, to the words of Jim Jones (remember Jonestown?) at an anti-suicide rally in
Given the sometimes-gory descriptions, the absence of photos and drawings is a bit surprising. However the author says in a "note to the reader" that these will be available on his website.
Overall, flaws and all, I highly recommend this book for anyone who has seriously considered suicide, or is presently contemplating it. With more reservations---the first half has too little detail, the second half too much---I would recommend it for general readers as well.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Stays with you, [5stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
This is clearly the work of a man deeply steeped in his own moral compass which is nothing but laudable. I would say it is worth reading this book simply for it's strength of character; as an example of what happens when someone looks deeply into a social phenomenon, then deeply into their soul, then expresses the result in a clear, concise way.
Yes this book is challenging to the reader: if you have ANY fear of some means of death or injury (who doesn't?) then there will be some part of the book that defies you to keep staring at the clinical reality of the situation.
Yet Stone makes his case with emotion, feeling and yes, humor -- but never without the utmost respect for those considering suicide or those reaching for help in a desperate act. Never once did I feel Stone was judging the subject or the reader. He saved all that for the system and those that perpetuate it.
I read this book a year ago and it's principles have stayed with me and inspired me to me more open, generous and thoughtful.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
A laudable but incomplete work., [3 stars]
June 25, 2000
Reviewer: A reader from Wichita, Kansas
That this is called the most complete suicide how-to book indicates just how little information is available. Rather than being authoritative, this book would merely make an attempt even more frightening, given its insufficient and vague instructions.
The book offers little information outside common knowlege and mainly serves to emphasize the consequences of a failed attempt. The few statistics quoted are of small sample sizes and are not geographically spread, there are no diagrams, descriptions are colorless and technical information is incomplete. The author fails, for instance, to note that lethality of firearms is as dependent upon type of cartridge and bullet as upon calibre (imagine someone confidently using a .357 magnum pistol inadvertently loaded with low velocity .38 special cartridges).
To be fair, perhaps the stigma against suicide, and career considerations caused the author's sources to be reluctant to offer information or advice. This might explain why so much of the book seems gleaned from internet dilettantes. The book is still a brave first effort, made at some personal risk, and the author should be commended for performing something of a public service.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
The "How-To" Manual on Suicide, [5 stars]
Reviewer: Michael Godfrey from
Ever since I was young, I've been chemically predisposed to depression. As I got older, these feelings deepened and were fed with the artistic curve in my personality, but I've never sought chemical, psychotropic treatment as I'd rather learn the root of my issues and find resolution.
Now having read the work of Geo Stone, a very clinical, white light is shed on the mystery and attraction that is suicide. Dry humor, at times, is used, as this is a heavy subject, but it still abounds with the reality that "when you point the gun properly, as the author will instruct, that is it..."
No longer do I find room for curiosity or the enigmatic romance. In that sense, then, I have learned that suicide isn't something only impacting the self. The book showed me how others are left with a hole in their life.
I do wish there were more historical information regarding the Catholic Church and Christianity in it's developed stance on the moral issues. It did cover early Christianity and the short lived period of suicides in order to bypass the temptations of earth to get one's seat in heaven, but I would love to have read more.
Also fascinating were the situational ethics brought up by the author compelling one to really analyze if there truly is anything "sinful" about suicide. In one instance, murder during war is honorable....suicide is not. Other examples and contrasts made by the author borderline on the profound where one can actually walk away feeling neither "pro" nor "against" suicide.
For years, I was a Catholic Benedictine Monk, and do know what the Church dictates on this subject, but I no longer am in agreement with this opinion. Nothing in life is black and white. Nothing is easy.
If you want this book to offend you, it will. If you wish to be challenged, emotionally and ethically, it will. It simply is how you wish to see it.
Through confrontation and suffering, we grow as human beings. This is the basis of the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
4 of 67 people found the following review helpful:
SICKENING, [1 star]
Reviewer: A reader from
Why would anyone want to write a book on ways to kill ones self? I found this book quite nauseating, mainly because suicide is the one sin that cannot be forgiven by God, the taking of one's own life is unforgivable, and a definate ticket to Hell, where your suffering will be unimaginable, and FOREVER. I am not trying to preach it just saddens me so, that a book like this is even allowed to be published, what about the families and friends of people who take their own lives? It stays in their minds and hearts forever. If you are thinking about suicide or harming yourself, why not try to get help? Call a friend or family member, talk to a minister or someone who serves the Lord, go talk to a doctor, there are many types of medication now days to help with depression and social phobias. Please don't take your life over a temporary problem, because you will have to face the consequences for a lifetime.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful:
A W E S O M E, [5 stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
Now that I have read this book, I feel that I have a wider range of techniques to use. I am thankful to the author for suggesting these methods. Thank you Mr. Stone.
15 of 38 people found the following review helpful:
book withouth star, [not rated]
Reviewer: A reader from
I can't judge books as this in one only sense: good - bad, one- five stars, etc. because suicide is very serious thing, and the serious things of life accustoms to be ambivalent. Certainly, not all people has much to leave, not all were loved, but curiously, suicide is rarely committed in underenveloped, miserable countries when rates of "natural" death are very high.
So, this book is good in the sense it's technically worth, but I think it are intended for countries of the first world when one theoretically will have not so many reasons for taking her life. Or perhaps yes, because the advances of medicine that prolongs life but at some cases one asks himself: "for what?".
I'm Spanish and no doubt my point of view can't be the same as a Northamerican, but as it were, I can't condemn suicide nor this book, but this not means it likes me as many other facts in this world. It's valid because is very rational (it need to be), but we humans are only partially rational beings: perhaps less that is commonly thinked. At catholic cultures there's the custom to speak one thing, while thinking other, and doing another. And there's always the catholic absolution. Also, I have read that in the state of
All I believe is that if society is too much tolerant with suicide, people will have it in mind as a little more easy, normal possibility, but the first rule of life is living, not dying. Having this book at reach of hand for "what it would be" I feel is bad, and treating to assure excessively the life against all contingencies is resting life to own life, and this can generate people yet dead before his end.
The whole of us traverse circunstancial bad moments, and with the exception of those suffering unsupportable disease, painful old age, loneliness, insanity or poverty (sure they are many), suicide is commited in sudden disperation, so, the suicide takes not the time of reading none. Only perhaps at some times and particular cultures this is not so, and suicide could be not so rare part of his customs.
I think yes: one has the rigth to take his life under exceptional circunstances, and if he don't know how to do safely and without pain, this book is worthwile. But presenting suicide as other vulgar or routine custom isn't good and a sign of decadence, or, perhaps worst, the beginnig of one of these monstruous utopias described by Zamyatin, Kafka, Huxley, Orwell and many others.
6 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
Fascinating. The best book on this subject., [5 stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
The most thorough and interesting book available on the topic of suicide methods.
12 of 58 people found the following review helpful:
Sick!!, [1 star]
Reviewer: A reader from
I thought that this was a sick book! A person who is feeling suicidal needs uplifting and care. This book just shows them how to kill themselves in a more efficient way. A suicidal person reading this would probably kill themself in the next day because this tells you exactly what to do. It made me sick!!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
the person from NY who said this book is "Sick" is SO wrong!, [5 stars]
August 26, 1999
Reviewer: Rain from New York, NY
This book is not "sick"--it's absolutely necessary, both for those of us who have a serious intent to die and for those of us who are toying with the idea and don't want to cause permanent irreversible damage on the way there. A book like this helps more than it hurts because it prevents people from making attempts that are sure to fail and will cause all kinds of damage along the way. I belong to an internet newsgroup that provides the same kind of service. Talking honestly and openly about suicide SAVES lives, it doesn't *cause* more deaths (as the author said, it's like teenage sex--if you fail to talk about it, it doesn't in any way mean that it's not still going to happen). This book is an invaluable resource for anyone (and that's a lot of us) who has thought about taking that step towards self-inflicted death. my only beef with the author is that he puts depressed people in the "irrational" category. now, if someone is psychotically depressed, hearing voices and the like, that's one thing, but your normal, run-of-the-mill non-psychotic depression is NOT, in my opinion, to be put into that "irrational" category. depression is as serious and as painful as any long-term physical illness, and it ought to be viewed as such. especially because there are cases in which depression can be prolonged for many years and can ultimately be untreatable. this is definitely a book worth owning.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful for people who have 1st hand experience, [5 stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
I bought this book the day after my mother attempted suicide. This book helped me understand and deal with my own life and as well hers at the time of her attempt. **If anyone you know is contemplating suicide...GIVE THEM THIS BOOK!!"
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
One of the most engaging books I've read., [5 stars]
October 5, 2001
Reviewer: Meaghan Good from Venedocia, Ohio USA
This is a really neat book. Well-researched, informative, often funny. Many such books have a very dry tone, but not this one. I read it more-or-less continuously for a whole day to finish it. I love the footnotes. I think it might be dangerous in the hands of a suicidal person, since it tells all about how to do yourself in, but it's good for someone like me who's only interested in the theory.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Neutral guide if you want to decide, [5 stars]
Reviewer: Herwig Syen from
Geo Stone gives you the plain facts. Sometimes it gets a little tedious to read the statistics and some of them are outdated. I'm sure he researched for the newest material though. The essence of the book is: Why do people commit suicide, Can it be prevented? If not, how do you go about it. It is bound to shock, but it gives a very objective view about a sensitive subject. Thumbs up!
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Basically a primer for the suicidal, [4 stars]
Reviewer: willster1 from
This book is bound to offend some people. It provides detailed information on the most effective ways to commit suicide and, conversely, the safest ways to stage a cry for help in the form of attempted suicide. The book is an odd combination of well-written information and dry statistics. For those who are interested in the psychological, sociological and physical manifestations of suicide in
Temperd praise and a quiet caution, [5 stars]
Reviewer: A reader from
Owning this book is like having a gun. This book is packed with practical knowledge. How one uses that knowledge makes all the difference. While it is an interesting read and focuses attention on an underdiscussed subject, I do not recomend it for the person with sucidal thoughts. The author has golden intentions in trying to prevent unneccasry deaths and permanent injuries, but the raod to h*ll is paved with just such intentions. I would recomend this work to only the psychologically stable with a healthy morbid curiosty.
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