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on 7 March 1999
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.
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on 22 February 1999
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 San Francisco.
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.
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on 30 March 1999
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 US and all around the world. There are some powerful conclusions, such as gun ownership does not necessarily contribute to higher suicide rate, that are counter-intuitive but extremely convincing.
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.
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.
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on 11 March 1999
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.
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on 6 September 2002
I honestly don't know if I loved or hated this book. Being someone who's suffered from depression for years and has often been close to suicide, I found this book both facinating and very, very disturbing. The second half of the book is basically a guide to a successful suicide - or information on how to make sure you survive. Great book for information but triggering to anyone who is suicidal.
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on 4 March 1999
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!!"
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on 6 January 2004
I've given this book 3 starts, as i'm not sure whether it deserves 1 or 5. I suffer from depression and found this book very disturbing. The second half is basically a guide to how to kill yourself, such as the amount of pills you should take.
On the other hand, it did contain some useful information about suicide in general, which was interesting to read, and includes infomation on Euthanasia, although is slightly triggering if you're feeling suicidal.
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on 21 October 2010
after looking at the reviews on other books i looked at this one but am totally shocked at the price!! why is it so expensive????
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on 19 May 1999
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!!!
44 comments|21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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