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In Excess

From The New York Post:

A man who died while strangling himself for sexual gratification didn't mean to take his life in his own hands, a federal appeals court ruled.

In a 2-1 decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found David Critchlow's mother is entitled to death benefits because her son didn't mean to injure himself while engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation, The New York Law Journal reported yesterday.

The ruling is believed to be the first of its kind.


Comments (13)

This opinion (the "ruling")... (Below threshold)

This opinion (the "ruling") seems similar to the "you'll only get a little bit pregnant" argument.

Yes, it's unbelievable.

Actually, it sounds like a ... (Below threshold)

Actually, it sounds like a correct ruling to me. He didn't intend to kill himself, so his death wasn't an "intentional self-inflicted injury" under the policy.

Pretty straightforward, really.

It "sounds like" denial and... (Below threshold)

It "sounds like" denial and/or irrational review of the facts, to me. Someone engaging in intentional self asphyxiation, and dying in the process, wasn't behaving in any life affirming or even modestly/reasonably "safe" behavior. Thus, earlier, I wrote that it seemed similar to someone suggesting that there was such a thing as "being a little bit pregnant."

If another person was administering the "asphyxiation," with someone else's request and/or "consent," I'd still think that there was guilt for causing death involved. Someone can drive over a bridge and call it a sexually stimulating effect, but don't say about the death or deaths that result, that it was "accidental" and not intentional.

I agree that the ruling makes no sense. By definition of the act alone, "self asphyxiation," someone's preventing themself from breathing, an act necessary to survival. Without which, death is imminent unless someone else intervenes. So, I'd say that the guy who engaged in "self asphyxiation," despite doing so for the alleged "sexually stimulating" effects, had an informed idea ahead of time what risks he was taking.

The ruling is nonsense. Now anyone else can claim "sexual stimulation" as a direct appeal to any other life threatening act on themselves or anyone else, and avoid blame by citing his nutty ruling.

I'm with Spoons on this one... (Below threshold)

I'm with Spoons on this one. This would be the equivalent of dying bunji jumping or riding a motorcycle without a helmet. The policy didn't have a moron exclusion; it was just intended to keep someone from killing themselves in order to confer a benefit on their heirs. It's pretty clear that wasn't the guy's intention.

With Spoons and Mr. Joyner ... (Below threshold)

With Spoons and Mr. Joyner here...

-S- seems to be building up some nice strawmen, but ignores a key fact: self asphyxiation is not fatal unless it's over-done, like most everything else. How is this different from someone who, for example, is swimming in the ocean, dives to far down and drowns on the way back up?

It's not. This was not the wisest thing that the guy did, but it certainly was not suicide. There are much easier, cleaner, and less embarrassing ways to kill one's self, and I can't imagine someone choosing to end their life THIS WAY.

Self-asphyxiation is perfectly safe, as long as you stop in time. He didn't.

For a layperson -- meaning,... (Below threshold)

For a layperson -- meaning, I'm more likely to be on a jury than most attorneys, so best to keep in mind this ordinary person's reasoning and how it's reasoned -- asphyxiation is not, not at all, the equivalent behavior of diving, swimming, riding (bicycle, horse, cycle, rollerblades, whatever) without a helmet, but is more akin to the earlier example I provided: driving a car off a bridge as "a sexual stimulation."

Meaning, it's POSSIBLE to harm yourself, even to end your life, while swimming, diving, riding without a helmet, etc., but it's CERTAIN that you'll end your life by withholding your breath or having your breath withheld.

Even with bunji jumping, there are 'safety measures' in place -- there's a standard of safety of practice established and used and for a while now so there's an obvious precedent that the 'sport' can be relatively reliably 'safe' if safety practices are observed and used -- BUT jumping off that same bridge WITHOUT any helps or preventives IS a (almost if not complete) risk such that a human would lose their life.

ARE there any 'safety practices' for asphyxiation? Is it recognized as being a "safe" practice or even a sport comparable with riding, diving, etc.? No. It's an odd behavior that SOME people regard as "sexually stimulating" but then again, so does driving off a bridge or even jumping off one without any helps involved, to SOME people (that is, the "genre" of "sexually stimulating" activities is like sands on a beach unless it's something so common as to be, well, common, and asphyxiation isn't).

I bet the guy "accidentally" died, yes, meaning he probably didn't engage in asphyxiation with the plan to end his life but he certainlly was enganging in a practice that would and could surely take his life, so, I don't see any wiggle room there to say "he didn't MEAN to die/take his own life," (but he MEANT to asphyxiate himself).

It makes no sense to me. Perhaps someone driving off a bridge, like I earlier wrote, didn't MEAN to die, but they did and they do and they will and MOST humans understand those risks and so don't drive off a bridge, regardless of some possible sexual excitement. I still say the same standard applies to an equally deadly practice of asphyxiation. Or ingesting too many pills. Or alcohol combined with certain pharmaceuticals. Or jumping off a bridge without a bungee chord...

IF, however, someone wants ... (Below threshold)

IF, however, someone wants to suggest that the guy (who died, due to his asphyxiation indulgence) was not capable of determining that he COULD die from the practice, that he was mentally impaired, I'd believe THAT long before I'd believe that he was just aimlessly trying to entertain his sexual urges and, oops, died because he prevented himself from breathing by inducing his own unconsciousness by asphyxiation. Probably the guy had killed off brain cells already and wasn't functioning competently -- which asphyxiation can and does do: kill neurons (and they don't "grow back").

"I bet the guy 'accidentall... (Below threshold)

"I bet the guy 'accidentally' died, yes, meaning he probably didn't engage in asphyxiation with the plan to end his life ...."

Then that's the end of the inquiry, and the Court was right.

You seem to be misunderstanding what this case was about. This is an insurance dispute. The policy had what amounted to a suicide exclusion. It didn't have an idiot exclusion. People do all sorts of stupid things and still end up covered by insurance.

The only question before the court was whether this guy intentionally killed himself so as to void the policy. He didn't. End of story.

-S-, you need to look up th... (Below threshold)

-S-, you need to look up the definition of "asphyxiate." Asphyxiation does not inevitably end in death. Which, I believe, totally undermines your argument.

Not that they need it, but I throw my vote in with the Spooney-Joyner-Pete crowd.

I didn't make the point cle... (Below threshold)

I didn't make the point clear about what the fellow (who killed himself) "meant" or intended...

He engaged in a practice that had a high probability of ending his life. He was aware of tthat probability, but regarded it, instead, as being "sexually stimulating." Thus, indicates a disconnect between what he regarded as most important: sexual stimulation or remaining alive.

If he'd had a heart attack during sexual intercourse, and died from that attack in that act, I'd have been likely to decide that the fellow certainly didn't "intend" to "take his life." Because there's not a high probability of death as an aspect to that act. For most people, on average.

I still say that the act of asphyxiation is one that delivers a PROBABLE cause of death. Among the average person, they'd regard the act as being too probabl as to losing their life, so would avoid it as a willful act. Someone disregarding the probability and engaging in the act because the "sexual stimulation" involved was more important than the threat to their life, indicates to me someone who had either no ability to reason well/normally or someone who reasoned normally but opted to engage in an act that would probably end his life.

Therefore, I'd conclude that the guy opted to take his own life, by decision or not, but certainly by disregard. If he'd set himself on fire with a gallon of accelerant because it was "sexually stimulating" to do so, and he'd died because of it (d'oh), I'd conclude the same way, and regard the fellow as behaving with the same disregard for his own life.

So far, everyone here has offered a defense for the act of "asphyxiation" and not about the guy's behavior, tried to compare the act to sports and the like, but, "asphyxiation" isn't some routine behavior that most people regard as pleasant or even voluntarily preferable, along with the fact that "asphyxiation" has no set of rules, no safety measures, no established procedures by which the act is taught, shared, whatever...so the attempt to compare this act with generalized sports is ridiculous.

As an "insurance case," I still think the ruling is both unusual and wrong. The fellow chose to engage in an act that delivered a probably loss of life, and he did voluntarily, and then lost his life. That it was "an accident" is foolish under those circumstances. Although it's a squeaky rationalization, to assume he was hapless and caught in some sports equivalent act.

A person hanging themself in their closet, room, putting a plastic bag over their head, all of these are similar to someone setting themselves on fire, driving off a bridge, whatever. Just because SOME people regard these probably deadly acts as "sexually stimulating" doesn't mean that the greater measure of threat to life should be disregarded.

In those respects, I do believe the fellow "meant" to take his own life, if by the only reason that he wilfully and consentually engaged in an act that would likely end his life.

No wonder insurance rates are so high, what with rulings such as this.

Isn't there some standard w... (Below threshold)

Isn't there some standard whereby it's necessary to hold in account what the normal, or average person would or would not do? That is, if someone acts outside that standard, behaves in such a fashion that would be found unacceptable under similar situations to most people, that that person can be evaluated differently?

In this case, this particular "sexually stimulating" act isn't one that the normal person would (ever) regard as being casual, fun, pleasurable, or even if so, wouldn't engage in due to the risks involved. So, the guy disregarded the risks, and that's where my faith in this ruling exists: that the fellow was either incompetent and unable to recognize that his actions were threatening to his life, or, that the fellow wasn't incompetent, was aware that his actions were threatenting to his life but disregarded the threat and engaged in the actions anyway. Therefore, he's responsible for his own loss of life.

The expression, "meant to" ... (Below threshold)

The expression, "meant to" take his own life -- versus, "did not mean to" take his own life -- is nonsensical in this case.

Because, the very act he engaged in bears a probable loss of life. I'd say to a 100 percentile probability, unless there is intervention during the process to restore someone's breathing, after it's been stopped, there is a 100 percent probability that there will be loss of life (again, unless there are interventions either by another person or by natural phenomenon like freezing in some cases).

So, by making his choice to engage in this act, he indicated a "meaning" or intent to disregard the risk involved. So, that means to me, that he displayed a "willful" or decided state of mind in engaging in the act by which he lost his life.

So, he's responsible. He lost his life, he brought about the circumstances by which he was almost certainly going to lose his life...

I can't see qualifying this any further, and, just because it's "an insurance case" doesn't make the loss of life any less intentional or the guy any less responsible for losing his life.

But, framing the decision within some atmosphere of "insurance" does provide a bit of disinfecting of personal culpability, coupled with the "sexually stimulating" aspect...makes it seem all "freedom of choice" and "harmless" even to any sense of guilt or responsibility. Wrong. It's just rationalization of the actual harms involved here, and who was responsible.

Where was the mother, by the way, when this "sexually stimulating" act was going on? If the guy was alone during the process, that only emphasizes to me that the fellow was intent on ending his life. Otherwise, invite a friend, stay alive. People attempt to rationalize a lot of behaviors by themselves and others by wedging in the "sexual" nature of acts, and it's a shame.

Because, the very act he... (Below threshold)

Because, the very act he engaged in bears a probable loss of life. I'd say to a 100 percentile probability...

Without a basis for that statement, you have no argument, and I think that's where you go wrong. Heightening sexual intensity by reducing oxygen intake, while not common, is more prevalent than you may think. And they don't inevitably kill themselves, although some do.

Your "100%" statement may seem like common sense to you, but you need to back it up with some facts if you expect to make any headway with your rejection of the court's opinion.






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