In A Nutshell
The ideas of euthanasia and assisted suicide are always hotly debated topics. Lithuanian writer and artist Julijonas Urbonas is taking that debate one step further with his plans for a Euthanasia Coaster, a roller coaster that is guaranteed to kill its passenger with a 500 meter (1,640 ft) drop and speeds up up 100 meters (330 ft) per second. The idea was inspired by his longtime love of amusement parks, and he stresses that it would be a euphoric, painless way to die.
The Whole Bushel
Julijonas Urbonas repeatedly uses words like “elegance,” “euphoria,” and “reflection” when he talks about his Euthanasia Coaster.
The coaster is comprised of a 500 meter (1,640 ft) drop followed by a series of seven loops of diminishing size. The distance of the drop means that anyone riding it would be subjected to speeds of 100 meters (330 ft) per second and forces of 10 G for 60 seconds. According to Urbonas, that would be enough to kill most people in the first loop, and kill the rest by the second. The entire trip would take about three minutes, and two of those minutes are spent just getting to the top—an important journey, he says, that allows the person to adjust to the height and come to terms with the end that lies before them. The whole track is about 7,500 meters (24,750 ft) long.
The official cause of death would be a lack of oxygen to the brain, and Urbonas says that it’s a pleasant, painless, and even euphoric way to go.
The physics of how it works are fairly simple. The person takes a slow ride to the top of the first drop, getting the chance to reflect on their decision. If they choose to go through with it by the time they reach the top, they’re plummeted back down to Earth with enough force to carry them through the seven loops. Blood rushes from the brain as the body is subjected to powerful G forces, suffocating the brain. There could also be a complete loss of vision, but most people would lose consciousness and ultimately die before that. The process is called cerebral hypoxia, and it’s the same thing that’s a danger to deep-sea divers.
From the designer’s point of view, it’s really about bringing pleasure to a person’s last moments; he points to hospital euthanasia as being a clinical, sterile thing, when, in his mind, it is the culmination of a person’s life and should be honored with ritual and dignity. The person would have time to reflect on their lives and their decisions between crossing the point of no return and actually dying, which most methods of suicide do not allow.
The PhD student started out by studying what altered gravity does to the body, and found that amusement parks are one of the least-studied and most commonly visited places where people subject themselves to alternate gravities. Research merged with years working at an amusement park, and the Euthanasia Coaster came of it in an attempt to bring meaning back to death. Where the artist was troubled that the administration of something like a lethal injection lacked dignity and ceremony, he sees this as a way to end a life as vibrantly as it was lived.
He also says that he can see it feasibly being built sometime in the future and that he would use it himself. Urbonas is the mastermind behind a number of bizarre creations that straddle the line between art and science, including an Emancipation Kit that he made in order to help us make our bodies lighter. That is, to help us voluntarily vomit.