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Bollocks to the Hippocratic Oath

People Are Crap at Suicide

And that means a lot of wasted hospital time.

Disclaimer: Some of you might remember this column from a few years back when we still lived at Viceland. When we moved to, though, it disappeared, so now we've dug it up. Enjoy.

Photo by Jason Kuffer

Hey, you rapidly decaying protoplasmic sacks of calcium and shit, my name is Dr Mona Moore. Obviously, that is not my real name, but I am a real doctor. Don't feel bad for me, though, because it means I will always have a job, an apartment ten times bigger than yours and the right to tell you what to do simply because I will always know better. Enjoy my column!



People are crap at killing themselves. You would think that once you set your mind to self-destruction it would be fairly straightforward, but the majority of people fail. In fact, ten to 20 million people fail to kill themselves worldwide every year. That's a lot of wasted hospital time. For that reason, you won't get much sympathy from the medical profession if you come in having munched your way through a box of Feminax and a bottle of Peach Schnapps after your boyfriend's dumped you. They start rolling in about midnight  – the suicides and the drunks. 80 percent of people opt for an overdose in some misconceived notion of a tragic rock star ending facedown in a pile of vomit and scattered pills. But all they get is the liver of Keith Richards without the years of fun and excess to justify it.

The kids prefer paracetamol. The mid-life crisis cases use antidepressants and the old depressives take sedatives lulling themselves into that very long sleep. But they all make the same mistake, they just don't take enough. Think about it, there must have been a weekend you've done pretty much endless ketamine, yet (generally) you and your friends haven't died, so, to actually succeed in shuffling off this mortal coil you've really got to go for it. Thing is it's almost worse if you only take nearly enough. Your liver fails and you turn yellow, start bleeding from all over and have a lifetime as a transplant patient to look forward to, and that is going to be shit. Teen movies are to blame for the myth that slitting your wrists is effective; Even if you do cut deep enough and directly on the artery, still it takes so long that you'll normally chicken out before you snuff it. Though aesthetically it is dramatic.


In general, failing at death is worse than failing at life. If you shoot yourself through the head at the wrong angle you end up retarded. Jump from one floor too low and you're paralysed for life. One mouthful short of bleach and you’ll have to wait for your stomach to slowly melt.

There is also the crying-out-for-attention nutcase contingent. The problem with these is we just don't have room for them. There are a limited number of emergency psychiatric beds, which are harder to get into than your brother's wife’s arsehole. You want in on one of these beds you better be properly unhinged, because suicidal tomfoolery just doesn't cut it. One time a skinny depressive in his thirties was brought in after calling the police threatening to hang himself. The psych doctor told him: “Well we're very sorry, but if you were really going to kill yourself, you wouldn't have called the police first, would you?” A little callous perhaps, but you can’t argue with the logic. Unfortunately he returned later that night. He had tied a rope around his neck, stood on the edge of a building and made sure to call the police before jumping. He was reluctantly admitted.

Some attempts are just plain silly. One middle-aged northern lady came in choking to death refusing to let doctors open her mouth. They pinned her down, prized her lips open and tweezered out a pink lacy thong from the back of her throat. You've got to give her points for originality if not execution. Vitamin overdoses, trying to hold your own head under water or taking enough aspirin to give you mild indigestion are all bracketed under the same heading. Everyone who survives says the same thing: “I feel really stupid.” Well, yes, you would. People fail at killing themselves because fundamentally they don't want to die. Life may not be worth living, but death is definitely not worth the trouble.

I'm not encouraging more efficient suicide tactics by the way. Next time you feel down, perhaps just go to the cinema. Everyone likes that. But whatever you do, don't touch the bleach, you'll live to regret it.

Previously: Cheating the Rectal Examiner