12 August 2010

A hole in the head

What's worse than a bullet in the brain? Being driven over by a truck, says Susan Erasmus. And you thought you were having a crappy day.

What's worse than a bullet in the brain? Being driven over by a truck, says Susan Erasmus. And you thought you were having a crappy day.

A KZN man, who tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a (low-calibre) .22 rifle, survived the shot, got out of his car, presumably to seek help, and was run over by a truck as he crossed the road.

All very tragic, but it does have a certain Laurel-and-Hardy touch to it for the more macabre-minded among us. What lends a certain irony to the story is that this guy is (at the time of writing) still alive, in hospital, and being treated for his injuries, and presumably fighting for his life.

If he is a medical scheme member, this could be problematic: most medical schemes do not pay out for self-inflicted injuries. But they will pay out for the damage caused by the truck. Now apart from removing the actual bullet from his brain, how are they going to determine which injuries come from which incident? Being hit by a truck presumably makes you look and feel as if you've, well, been hit by a truck.

There was a time when attempted suicide was a capital offence. I am not making this up. In other words, if you failed in your attempt, the state would kill you. That's a bit like killing your parents and then applying for leniency on the grounds that there have been two deaths in the family. Somewhere something just doesn't feel right.

 I am aware of the fact that suicide is no laughing matter. And that people have to be pretty desperate to get to the point where they want to end it all. It goes against every self-preservation instinct we have, so the situation must be pretty dire for someone to consider this. And to plan it down to the last detail.

But here’s the thing: the best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry. And that is where the sense of the ridiculous enters the picture.

The following story from the 2007 Darwin Awards (so called because the people who died in this manner did everyone a favour by removing themselves from the gene pool) deserves a mention here:

In France, Jacques LeFevrier left nothing to chance when he decided to commit suicide. He stood atop a sheer cliff and tied a noose around his neck. He tied the other end of the rope to a large rock. He drank some poison and set fire to his clothes. He even tried to shoot himself at the last moment. He jumped and fired the pistol. The bullet missed him completely and cut through the rope above him. Now freed from the threat of hanging, he plunged into the sea. The dunking extinguished the flames and made him vomit the poison. He was dragged out of the water by a kind fisherman and was taken to a hospital, where he died of hypothermia.

Is there a moral to this story? Not really. Except that if it's your time to go, go you will. And if it's not, you'll live to see another day. Just one thing: do look right and left before crossing the road. Especially if you have just shot yourself in the foot or in the head.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, June 2010)


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