Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coroner calls for ban on suicide manual

As much as I am happy that a representative of the Dignity in Dying group in the UK has stated that the banning of these suicide manuals is acceptable to them, the reality is that this is simply a ploy by Dignity in Dying to appear moderate.

It is interesting that Derek Humphrey, the founder of the Hemlock Society, has stated that Dignity in Dying sold thousands of his book: Final Exit in the 1990's. Final Exit is a suicide manual.

The text of the article that was published in the Manchester Evening News reported on Feb 16, 2009 and written by John Scheerhout and Stan Miller

A Coroner has called for a ban a suicide manual used by a Manchester club boss to kill himself.

Nigel Meadows has written to the Home Secretary expressing concern about the book.

He called for ministers to ban the book along with websites that show people how to take their own lives.

The book, which the M.E.N. has chosen not to name, has been published in America since 1991 and its latest edition can be ordered through the post for around 11 pounds. Paul Benson, who owned Aqua bar in the city, used the book to set up a 'sophisticated' method of killing himself, an inquest into his death heard.

He had a history of depression and was receiving psychiatric treatment. However, he was not terminally ill.

The author of the book has defended it saying it was written to help the terminally ill end their lives, not people suffering from mental illness.

The inquest heard Mr Benson, 43, was found dead by his brother in the loft of his home on Mardale Avenue, Didsbury, in May. He used a method detailed in the book.

Before he killed himself, Mr Benson wrote a note inside the cover of the book to defend the publication. He wrote: "This book didn't encourage me to kill myself. But it stopped me doing it in a way which was dangerous to others: e.g. in front of a train.

"This book is good unless the technique fails in which case I shall be suing."


Mr Benson died from suffocation and gas inhalation. Recording a verdict that he killed himself, Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows said he took 'elaborate' steps to end his life.

"He had done some research probably on the internet and this book," said Mr Meadows. "I will write to the Home Secretary about the book. I have to think about people who might be more vulnerable and much younger.

"Other coroners have called for the banning of this book and others of a similar ilk, but the government can take steps to stop distribution.

"I will be asking if any steps can be taken to stop ready access to this material and I would like a ban on websites that provide information about methods of self-harm."

Mr Benson, a bachelor, had been an outpatient at Wythenshawe Hospital receiving psychiatric treatment. The court heard he had tried on two previous occasions to kill himself - jumping from the Menai Bridge in Anglesey in 2006.

He landed in the river and spent six weeks in hospital with back injuries.

Mr Benson's family declined to comment. Friend Andrew O'Dwyer, chairman of Manchester Pub and Club Network, said: "He was a very caring person. He would go out of his way to help anyone."

Jo Cartwright, for the campaign group Dignity in Dying, said: "We would not object to banning the book because we don't encourage suicide without safeguards. It can be dangerous for vulnerable people."

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