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Final Exits

The Encyclopedia of How We Die

Michael Largo

Air-bags save lives but can be hazardous to short people. Or, as one guy found, fatal if you're sucking on a lollipop when the bag inflates.

Ants: a rest home worker wheeled an elderly patient outside for a bit of fresh air but managed to disturb a fire ant nest. In the next hour she was bitten hundreds of times. Each bite minuscule but cumulative effect killed her.

Beauty Contests: only 1% of those who take part in these ever go on to make a living modelling, over 4000 murders or accidental deaths in US each year feature "former beauty queen" in the report.

Casinos: not uncommon for people with big gambling debts to suicide, but in last 5 years in US, 3500 (elderly white men) have had fatal heart attacks at the tables.

Doctor Death: Dr Harold Shipman hung himself after killing at least 200 of his patients. He claimed that he was injecting the terminally ill with heroin to give them one last blissful experience.

Epidemics: the Black Death killed one-third of the civilized world's population between 1347 and 1351.

Foreign Objects: guy sat on a soft drink bottle which pushed right up into his intestine. He died when he tried to get it out with a coat hanger.

Guns: USA in 2010 19,000 gun suicides and 11,000 gun homicides.

Holidays: each year 400 xmas trees catch fire and holiday lights start another 500 fires. Since they often happen late at night, they have a high fatality rate.

Impotence: viagra and similar drugs are hazardous for men with high blood pressure, but many ignore the risk ("If I have to go, that's the way I want"). In the US more than 11,000 a year die after taking the drug.

Jet Deep Fried: guy had a jet engine from an F4 Phantom mounted on a scaffold in his back yard. Every so often he'd fire the thing up, making a hell of a noise. This annoyed his elderly neighbour, and she got a cease-and-desist order. He invited her over for a coffee to negotiate. Meanwhile he'd moved the engine, and when she came up the path he fired it up, instantly incinerating her in 4000 degree fireball.

Laughing gas: nitrous oxide is the propellent in whipped cream makers, and is freely available in little cylinders for that purpose. So it is accessible to young kids as a "huffing" euphoria. But resistance builds so users try to maximise the hit by putting a plastic bag over their head while inhaling the gas, with predictable results.

Marijuana: there are no known deaths from drug overdose, despite the propaganda from campaigners.

OTC drugs - both morphine and heroin were originally developed as OTC painkillers.

Police training: NY City cops have an urban warfare training ground using abandoned buildings, featuring popup targets as in MIB. A homeless man woke up in the building in the middle of the exercise, poked his head up and yelled "Boo!". He was hit by 63 of the 73 bullets fired in next few seconds.

Q-fever (the Q stands for Questionable) is a bacterial disease benign in its sheep host, but often fatal in humans. It was originally thought to cross over only with very close (ie intimate) contact, although few of the sufferers admitted this. It was later found that it could be inhaled from yard dust contaminated by sheep placenta.

Rollercoasters don't have that many deaths, but they are usually spectacular, and tend to make the headlines. A fat man was unable to secure the safety strap on the Boston Superman ride and flew 300 feet through the air, but not as fast as a speeding bullet, to his death.

Snake handling: some religious groups see it as a test of faith - if the snake bites you you're hiding a sin. Annually about 70 people a year die of snake bites during religious services.

Toothache: Nathan Rothschild was the richest man in the world in 1915, but he died of an abscessed tooth that today could be cured with a $10 antibiotic.

Umbrellas: the lawn variety impaled a Georgia man when a strong wind sent it cartwheeling down his lawn.

Valentines Day can be a deadly occasion. Suspicious wives know it's the best time to catch an erring husband; girlfriends convince themselves that they will get a proposal and go ballistic when it doesn't appear, and guys get upset when their romantic efforts are ignored. And that's before anyone starts debating the adequacy of the flowers.

Weddings can cause relationship stress. A Dallas guy killed his mother-in-law on the night of his wedding, claiming that he'd accidentally hacked her to death because he mistook her for a large raccoon trying to make off with the leftover wedding cake.

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