How to Kill Yourself Using the Inhalation of Carbon Monoxide
by Jerry Hunt
NOTE: This is a transcript of a how-to videotape Jerry made shortly before his death. It was intended to offer practical information to rational adults suffering from terminal or debilitating illnesses (and not from depression or emotional distress). There have been some minor edits for readability, but this is otherwise a verbatim record of Jerry's words. For background on Jerry's death, read Unlikely Persona: Jerry Hunt (1943-1993).
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Italicized lines below describe the action in the videotape.
In the tape, Jerry is seated next to a brown gas cylinder.
The reason I'm making this tape is because the difficulty that I've experienced in coming to some decision about this was so great that I decided that it might be useful to other people to have some information about decisions that I've made. So that's why I've decided to do it. I think, also, if you should choose a method of this kind, a lot of the peripheral questions that you think are not important will answer themselves.
For about ten years, in just looking at the general question of going about killing yourself, it's occurred to me just by looking at the information that I've seen, that clearly of all the methods that are possible, carbon monoxide is definitely the most successful. Even in industrial accidents, and in times in which there's no intention involved, the success rate is very, very high from the standpoint of death. But there are some dangers and there are difficulties. I also think that difficulties that the use of carbon monoxide gas produces for an individual are sufficient that it tends to screen away emotional and other kinds of responses which don't make sense. In other words, this method is not easy to use if you don't have clear ideas about what your intentions are, and what you plan to do.
What I decided was to obtain industrially-pure (or at least 98% pure) carbon monoxide gas. Because of some of the attention that has been placed around carbon monoxide in the last year (this tape is being made in 1993) it's very clear that it's very effective. The choice of using a pure gas involves a very simple answer to a complex question. And that is: "How can I proceed successfully?" I want to point out a couple of things that I think are very important in doing this. Carbon monoxide gas is easily obtainable from any industrial gas supply company that carries a wide range of gases. If they carry argon, nitrogen and a few other of the industrial gases, most likely they will have carbon monoxide. But carbon monoxide is a unique gas. Monoxide, happily, is indistinguishable to the hemoglobin in the body from oxygen and carbon dioxide. So it aggressively combines. It's colorless. It's odorless. It's tasteless. It's indistinguishable to the body, in large quantities in particular, from oxygen use. And so as a consequence there are certain safeguards around the purchasing of the gas. So it's very important in purchasing the gas, I think, to do two things. One is to be very clear that you understand the dangers to the person who is supplying the gas, and then to do, as I have done for example, to write an authorized and witnessed statement completely exonerating all of the people (this means not just the manufacturer, but the supplier and all of his business associates) from any responsibility. One of the big difficulties I encountered when I purchased this gas in the state of Texas was the fear that, by accidental use of this gas, I might kill myself, and they might be held criminally liable.
So I won't talk about details like that, because I assume that if you have the intention to kill yourself, you've thought about a lot of these complex issues, and there's no point in discussing things like this in a tape for general use.
The cost of this gas was $102. This is at 1993 prices. It's a standard 2200 lbs. cylinder. It must be stored at temperatures below 125° F. Obviously it needs to be locked off. I've never locked the gas off, because there's no danger [here] of anyone coming in contact with it. But you do have to take some precautions. And remember, not only is the gas toxic to you, but it's toxic to every other living thing that depends upon oxygen to breathe. I actually leased the cylinder. I paid a deposit for the cylinder. I told them that I was using it for purposes that I understood, which, in the case of the carbon monoxide gas, is: there are a variety of applications in medicine and in metallurgy. There are uses for it. It is a standard industrial gas. Not every gas supplier will have it, but it is standard.
At this point in the tape, Jerry unscrews a cap at the top of the cylinder to reveal the gas valve. He holds the plastic coupling (transparent plastic tubing) described presently.
What I wanted you to understand is how very simple it is. It's not necessary to buy complicated equipment, pressure regulators and the like. I just wanted to show you what I have done, and then also to bring your attention to some very serious questions, once you've made up your mind to do this. Notice that rather than using any kind of standard connector, all I do is remove the gas cap. I place a standard piece of hardware [store]-obtainable plastic coupling which will fit over the lip. (In fact this is standardized for all kinds of industrial gases, the connector is a standard connector). And this, I think, is a 1/2-inch plastic coupling. I just use a simple pinch-type connector, so that I can pinch connect that to the gas. That supplies that part of the connection. And now I just come down by three or four decreasing sizes of plastic tubing [to the end]. Any hardware store will sell you this kind of plastic tubing.
You could go to an oxygen supply place, and since -- needless to say most people don't think about this without having alternatives -- since I am having to use oxygen from time to time I've used one of these cannula supply things. I don't advise it for monoxide, and I'll explain in just a moment why. But usually they will also sell you a mask. There's no need for that.
Jerry holds up a simple dust mask.
All this is, is a standard mask that is used industrially to keep dust and other kinds of particles from coming into the face. I've sprayed the inside with a shellac. You can use anything which will block outside air from coming in. I'll go into more detail [later] about why. I have just pasted the supply tube to the inside to supply the gas. Remember, the couplings need to be tight enough so that they will stay attached. Because -- although this may seem obvious to you -- at the moment of doing it (you must think through every detail) -- and it's not so obvious in fact -- that the result of this gas is that you cease to function. So it's important to supply it properly. The reason why assisted suicide has frequently been discussed is because if you don't take precautions, you can end up with a serious debility which will far outweigh any possible difficulty that you may be using this as an alternative to. And I think maybe -- although I don't want this to be a tape of emotional and philosophic content too much -- you must realize that the importance to me, for example, of having obtained this system now is: it is to my mind a safety belt. In case of an accident, you don't know that that safety belt will keep you from harm. But at least you've done something that seems in a rational sense to make sense, as a reasonable step to take. This is, in other words, no guarantee of what I would call a decent death. By taking precautions you can avoid an indecent one, though. And the consequences of an indecent death at some point are no longer your problems, but the problems of the ones around you. So it's important to think about these details.
Jerry holds up the face mask and puts it on his face. The mask is fastened by an elastic band which fits over his ears and behind his head. Emerging from inside the mask, below Jerry's chin, is the plastic tubing which attaches to the gas cylinder.
This [mask] is very simple, but it's also very important to pay attention to something, which I have. And you might even want to reinforce it, or use more than one mask. You should make sure the band is sufficiently strong to hold the mask on at all times. Carbon monoxide gas acts at these levels very rapidly. Within 5 to 15 seconds, you'll begin to lose consciousness. It is important. And this is why I prefer going to this extravagant approach. I prefer using the high-pressure cylinder which can supply very high quantities of gas at very high rates of delivery without regulators or anything, because it guarantees that the massive delivery of the gas is quick enough that you will not suffer side effects.
So you see it's very simple. You put it on. It's very important that the band stay tight. I would advise placing the tubing into my pocket or connecting it in some way, because you might slump over or fall away. Although you may think you know which direction you're going to fall, you won't. An easy chair is probably a better idea, because if you slump forward you might knock the mask off.
Now, why am I going into these details? It's because if you knock the mask off too early, you'll end up with a situation which I think is very far from the one that would make you want to see this tape, and which is making me want to make this tape for anyone who might want to see it. And that is: you want this to work. You want it to work. If you're not careful you can cause a failure which makes this no longer a safety belt, no longer a rational gesture, but compounding the irrationality of the situation that might make you consider this in the first place.
Make sure the mask is tight. Make sure there is no tension along the tubing. And, as I said, although I'm not sitting in one, I think you should be in easy chair, with the head back. So that you can relax. So that when you do lose consciousness, which will come very rapidly if you do this correctly, the head will just fall back.
You're saying to yourself, I know: "How do you know it's going to work this way. You've never done it." I've read everything I can about the results of carbon monoxide poisoning. This comes from OSHA studies over the past 25 years, analysis of accident victims, and the published reports of people who have intentionally used monoxide. It is the safest, the simplest, the most absolutely painless and the least objectionable to those who must attend to you after you die.
Jerry, still wearing the mask, grasps the gas valve, a handle at the top of the cylinder.
Now the simple solution then, of course, once you've taken these precautions: tight mask, good seal, good fitting connections (these connections don't have to be terribly tight, but remember the gas in the cylinder is at 2200 lbs.). Once you've done that, all that is required is just to have -- and I know in some cases this is a large step -- the strength to turn this handle. And I don't mean this in any kind of metaphoric way. I mean this literally: the strength to turn the handle.
So in a way, when you make a tape like this you can't avoid some philosophy can you? I think I have to say "Don't go too soon. Don't wait too long." Because this question of having the strength to turn the handle is not a joke!
If you've considered this, you know what I'm talking about.
Jerry removes the mask.
Now, for those of you who want to think about the consequences and the aftermath: the gas, if you have done what I have proposed, given human variables, within 15 to 20 seconds you'll be totally unconscious. I think it's important to continue supplying the gas, for however long. If you plan to do this with friends, obviously they can turn this value. If you are planning to do it alone, then there is no one to turn the gas back off. So it means that you must put notices up in the area where you have done it, and put venting in. Because if you provide venting, then all anyone will do when they come in, they'll notice from your sign, that it's very important. Leave some notice of what gas is in use, and explain to those who might enter the room. This cylinder has enough gas in it to many, many, many times over kill an animal my size that is oxygen breathing. So there will be considerable gas buildup. So you must provide ventilation if you have no mechanism for cutting the gas off, or no one to do it for you. And you must supply notification to any person finding you, because even small levels of this gas can cause people to go into a variety of conditions in which, although they're not dead, they're unconscious. And it can also lead to brain damage and other problems.
Now before I stop talking about this, that's the last thing I want to discuss with you. Not only is it important that you supply a sufficient quantity of the gas at a very high rate of delivery for your own benefit, so that you do not suffer the consequences of brain damage or other kinds of byproducts of this experience, but you must make sure that you have provided safety precautions, very simple ones but very important, to those people who will eventually find you. You must not assume that someone will not find you within 2 to 3 minutes. This is not any kind of cry to the world. This is an action which result in a state. You want to be able to assure yourself as far as you possibly can that the consequences of your action will end up being the ones you intended. In other words, you don't want to hurt someone that you never intended to hurt. You don't want to injure yourself. You do want to be dead, not injured.
So my plan, basically, is to not worry about the consequences of turning the gas off. If this worries you a great deal, for about $2000 you can buy a safety switch which is adjustable at any level of concentration in the room, which will stop the gas flow within some period of time, an hour, an hour and a half.
I want to repeat the warnings about this gas, and talk to you about why it's important that you supply high flow levels to yourself. Very low concentrations of this gas can cause life-threatening, life-compromising and consciousness-compromising states in the people who encounter it. It is tasteless. It is odorless. Hemoglobin likes it better than oxygen. In fact, the result of the gas will not be a grotesquely disfigured corpse, but it'll be a pink, bright and healthy-looking one, in fact sometimes too pink. Long exposure causes the hemoglobin to absorb enormous quantities of CO gas, and it produces a very glowing, radiant red state. That's one sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. So there's not much question about the fact that it will work, but you must supply a sufficient quantity and guarantee that you can pass this 45 second threshold at a reasonable rate. If you can feel the gas rushing across your nose, and you can hear the gas rushing through the mask, you know you're fine. If you don't hear these things, then you may be supplying it too low, and something may happen. Because low quantities of delivery of carbon monoxide gas can cause nausea. It can cause vomiting. It can cause spasms. It can cause all kinds of unusual physiological reactions, that no one can predict which one will be your specific one. So it can interfere in your own intention.
Finally, because of carbon monoxide's very aggressive nature as a poison: it can't be tasted, seen, felt, heard. You just think you're breathing air. You just go to sleep. But everyone else just goes to sleep too. So it's very important that you take the safety precaution of alerting any potential person. In other words, don't try to think: "This person will find me. [That] person will find me." Think in general of anyone or anything, including any animal or other person, or any living thing that you don't want exposed to the gas. You must find some technique to be responsible, not just to yourself, but to other people. You must find some technique for guaranteeing that they are not exposed to what could be, by the way, not high concentrations, in which they experience an easy and relatively elegant unintended death, but they end up being damaged in ways that you perhaps never intended or thought about. It's one of the reasons why I think the complexity of obtaining a cylinder like this justifies its use. This cannot be a simple or suddenly imagined possibility.
Thanks for watching the tape, and I wish you good success in whatever endeavor you feel that you might find necessary.
Original Material Copyright © 1993 by Jerry Hunt. HTML Coding Copyright © 2001–2016 by Michael Schell. All Rights Reserved.