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Problems with the method can occur if lung disease or poor technique prevent a full exchange of gas in one’s lungs. Practice using normal air to fill the bag can be useful. If a person with lung disease is concerned about using this method, they should undergo a lung function test (spirometry). This test will give an indication of whether the method is suitable for them. (See the section on spirometry screening in this Chapter.)
It is important to recap that the inert gas, itself, does not interact with the body. Nitrogen, argon or helium all have no taste or smell. All quickly dissipate and present no risk to others. While helium and argon can be detected at autopsy, there is no test that can reveal the use of nitrogen. This makes nitrogen useful for people who do not wish their cause of death to be established. This pre-supposes that the equipment will be removed before the body is ‘discovered’. In some jurisdictions this can be an offence (interfering with a body or the circumstances of a death) so check your local laws in advance.
Differentiating between Hypoxia & Suffocation
There is much misinformation, some of it deliberate, about how peaceful and reliable a happy hypoxic plastic Bag death can be. The common claim is that the bag causes death by ‘suffocation.’ This term is ambiguous and needs clarification.
Suffocation occurs when no oxygen enters the lungs. If this is caused by a mechanical obstruction of the airways (eg. by tying a rope around the neck, or pushing a pillow into one’s face), it will be terrifying. People will struggle with the last of their strength to clear a mechanical blocking or obstruction of their breathing.