Suffocation occurs when no oxygen enters the lungs. If this is caused by mechanical obstruction of the airway (eg. by tying a rope around the neck, or pushing a pillow into one’s face), the act of mechanically blocking one’s breathing is terrifying. People will struggle with the last of their strength to clear the obstruction.
When used properly, there is no obstruction with a plastic Exit Bag and the death is peaceful. The death comes from (freely) breathing in an atmosphere where there is no oxygen (hypoxia). With an Exit Bag, a person breathes easily and peacefully as the bag expands and contracts with each breath. The bag is not next to, or touching the face or mouth. This is in stark contrast to death from airway obstruction. This is why it is important not to confuse the peaceful, hypoxic death that is possible (when an Exit bag is used properly), with the grim death that results from an obstruction to the airways.
And this is why we should be wary of media reports that reinforce this confusion. For example, when referring in 2001 to the importation of Canadian Exit bags, Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited (The Australian newspaper) reported Exit bags as ‘reminiscent of theKhmer Rouge’s shopping bag executions of Cambodia’s killing fields.’ Such reports show a total lack of understanding of the process and have damaged the image of the Exit Bag.
The Hypoxic Death
Hypoxia is a term meaning ‘low oxygen’. A death that results from inhaling insufficient oxygen is a hypoxic death. While there are several ways that this might occur, the common method used by those seeking a peaceful death is to suddenly immerse oneself in a non-oxygen environment.