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Death - Miscellaneous

Gun to Head - Courtesy of Studio8.netSuicide - 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): 685-689 concluded:

"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 one's life.

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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