Julijonas Urbonas has designed a rollercoaster just for this purpose, a “euthanasia machine in the form of rollercoaster”, a single-seat joy ride that lifts the rider 500m up in the air and then sends them swooping down along seven loop-the-loops at deadly speed.
The speed, reaching 100 metres per second, induces a euphoric sensation before “extreme G-force” would kill a person riding Urbonas’ conceptual euthanasia rollercoaster.
“Your blood is rushed to your lower extremities so there is a lack of blood in your brain, so your brain starts to suffocate. When your brain starts to suffocate, people become euphoric.
“Usually pilots experience such extreme forces for just a few seconds, but riders in the rollercoaster experience it for one minute and nobody has experienced this for such a long time,” Urbonas said while presenting the design at the HUMAN+ exhibition at Trinity College in Dublin.
He said such a way of assisted suicide introduces the element of ritual to death which has been “medicalized, secularized, sterilized”.
He designed the rollercoaster while a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art. In fact, it is unlikely to be built and Urbonas admits the project is more of an artistic expression and what interests him most are people’s reactions to the idea.
Negative reactions to Urbonas’ idea have come not just from euthanasia opponents. An American neurosurgeon has said that the riders are more likely to experience nausea than pleasure on the euthanasia coaster.
“Unfortunately, the likelihood of any pleasure and euphoria being produced is low; nausea and discomfort would be more probable,” Dr. Antonio Damasio wrote on the Design and Violence blog message board run by New York’s Museum of Modern Art which exhibited the design last summer.
“Of course, it is not for everybody, very much like thrill rides and horror movies,” is Urbonas’ response.
Urbonas, who says he has been in roller coaster development since childhood, insists the project is more of an artistic expression and it is peoples’ reactions to the rollercoaster that he finds most interesting.
“Some of them say that the death coaster changed the way they experience amusement rides, others claim they would never ride coasters again,” he wrote in response to Dr. Damasio’s critique.
Defending his design, he also said the machine could counter “boring” methods of euthanasia used in countries where the practise is legal.
“It [euthanasia] is executed in an extremely boring fashion, proposing ‘humane’ voluntary death could be more meaningful, personal, ritualistic,” he wrote, while pointing out that he is not advocating for assisted suicide.
He adds that although the euphoric feeling that comes from “GLOK or G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness” would be accompanied by nausea and discomfort, it would not last long.
“The talk on pleasure could also extend to exhilarating sensations that lure millions coaster fans. In addition to these physiological pleasures, I want to stress, the death coaster hints at the possibility for a specific kind of semantic pleasure: an alternative ritualized death appealing to both the individual and the mourning public,” he said.