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April 21, 2016

Hypoxia & the Exit Bag Explained

The common assumption is that the use of an Exit Bag (also sometimes called a ‘helium hood) causes death by ‘suffocation.’ This is NOT true!

Suffocation occurs when a person cannot easily take a breath. Examples include tying a rope around the neck, or pushing a pillow into one’s face.

The act of mechanically blocking one’s breathing is terrifying, and people will struggle with the last of their strength to clear the obstruction. It is just awful.

In contrast, a plastic Exit Bag (or helium hood) can bring about a peaceful death by hypoxia; when a person breathes (freely) in an atmosphere where there is no oxygen. That is the environment is full of a gas such as nitrogen or helium as  replacement.

Accidental hypoxic deaths are not uncommon.

One scenario is when there is a sudden drop in oxygen level that occurs when an aeroplane depressurizes at high altitude. This can lead to a rapid loss of consciousness and the death of all those on board. There is no helium or nitrogen in the plane, but neither is there any oxygen.

When the plane de-pressurizes, the passengers still breath easily but there is little oxygen in the inhaled air.

This lack of oxygen will cause a sudden drop in the dissolved oxygen in the blood reaching the brain. This will lead to loss of consciousness and death.

It is the same with an Exit Bag. A person will breathe easily as the bag expands and contracts with each breath. The bag is not next to, or touching the face or mouth.

This is why it is important not to confuse a peaceful, hypoxic death with the grim, terrifying death that results from an obstruction to the airways.

Read more in Chapter 5 of  The Peaceful Pill eHandbook