- The first recorded "on-air" suicide occurred July 15, 1974.
Christine Chubbock, 30-year-old hostess of Sarasota, Florida's
morning talk-show SUN COAST DIGEST interrupted her reading of
the news broadcast and said: "In keeping with Channel 40's
policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in
living color, you are going to see another first...attempted
suicide" Suddenly, she took a .38 revolver out of a shopping bag
and shot herself in the head. The attempt was successful.
In 1987 Pennsylvanian politician Bud Dwyer (under investigation
for wrong-doings) put a gun to his mouth and blew his head off
in front of a room full of press members. The suicide was
covered by local network stations, most of whom showed the gory
event only up to the point where he pulled the trigger, sparing
the audience the reality of splattered blood and bones.
On November 18, 1993, Emilio Nunez killed his former wife,
Maritza, while she was visiting the gravesite of her daughter in
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The entire gruesome affair was
captured on film by a TV crew interviewing, Emilio Nunez (who
blamed his daughter's suicide on his ex-wife). Both Telmundo
(Spanish-language network) and NBC NIGHTLY NEWS aired the
cemetery killing to the outrage of many viewers.
In the last episode of the 1984 season of the medical drama ST.
ELSEWHERE/NBC/1982-88 a young oriental-American hospital
resident, Dr. Wendy Armstrong (Kim Miyori/1982-84) committed
suicide. The strain of fulfilling her medical obligations
coupled with her bulimic binge/purge syndrome (Anorexia Nervosa)
was her undoing. And when Dr. Robert Caldwell (Mark Harmon) from
the same series discovered he had contracted AIDS from a female
acquaintance on a 2/2/86 episode, he attempted to kill himself
by administering a neurological Paralyzer. At the last minute he
was interrupted by a knock on his apartment door and decided
against killing himself; instead living out what life he had
until his disease took him naturally.
TRIVIA NOTE: As a special note on
suicide David P. Phillips & Lundie L. Cartensen article
"Clustering of Teenage Suicides after Television News Stories
about Suicide" in The New England Journal of Medicine 315 (11):
"The results of our study indicate that the national rate of
suicide among teenagers rise significantly just after television
news or feature stories about suicide...In view of these
findings educators, policy makers and journalists may wish to
consider ways of reducing public exposure to stories both
general and specific about suicide."
Considering the fact that suicide among the nation's young
people, (89.5% of young male suicide victims were white),
inexplicably jumped to an alarming 40 percent during 1970-1980
(according to the Center for Disease Control), it would be wise
to heed this timely warning.
A similar study by Madelyn S. Gould & David Shaffer "Impact of
Suicide in Television Movies: Evidence of Imitation" in The New
England Journal of Medicine 315(11):690-694 suggested "fictional
presentations" (for example, made-for-TV-movies) may have a
"lethal effect" on teenage viewing audiences.
In 1990, the topic of "suicide" took over the headlines when Dr.
Jack Kevorkian, (a.k.a. "Dr. Death") took an Alzheimer patient
to a park in Michigan and assisted in her suicide. He was found
not guilty because Michigan state had no law on the books to
prohibit such an act. The occurrence provoked a nationwide
debate over medical ethics and the right to die.
The books "Prescription Medicide: the Goodness of Planned Death"
by Jack Kevorkian and "Final Exit: The Practicalities of
Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying" by Derek
Humphry (published by the Hemlock Society) discussed their
philosophy of suicide and the ultimate civil right of taking
Read also a related article by Marzuk, Peter M. et. al.
"Increase in Suicide by Asphyxiation in New York City After the
Publication of Final Exit." The New England Journal of
Medicine (November 11, 1993): 1508-1510.
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