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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007 Dec;28(4):364-7.

Asphyxial suicide by inhalation of helium inside a plastic bag.

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  • 1Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Asphyxial suicide by placing a plastic bag over the head, especially in combination with inhalation of gases, is a rarely described method of committing suicide. This article reports a case of suicidal asphyxiation by inhaling the inert gas helium inside a plastic bag. A 64-year-old man probably followed the instructions described in an article about committing suicide written by a medical practitioner from Zürich. This form of suicide is recommended by right-to-die groups and in the internet as a certain, fast, and painless suicide method. Additionally, it leaves only seldom externally visible marks or pathomorphological findings on the body. If the plastic bag and other auxiliary means are removed by another person, the forensic death investigation of cause and manner of death may be very difficult. Therefore, the death scene investigation and the inquiry ordered in the environment of the deceased are very important.

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