In 2011, the Science Gallery at Trinity College in Dublin hosted another one of its infamous futuristic science shows. With a dollop of steampunk, a dash of mad science, and a splash of David Cronenberg, participants contributed strange creations designed to at once innovate and aggravate stagnant thought. This included human pollination suits for a post-bee world, 30 skulls with eyes that follow viewers across the room in, Uncanny Valley, and a human-petunia hybrid called an Etunia.
Amidst these ideas, there is one that refuses to stay silent, appearing on YouTube, Reddit, and other social sites every few years for its kindly yet terrifying answer to unbearable life — death by thrill ride. The Euthanasia Coaster exhibit proffered a hypothetical euthanasia machine designed by Julijonas Urbonas, a Lithuanian with a kindly, twisting idea of death with “elegance and euphoria.”
A combination of high-volume visitors jumping on mechanical cars designed to take violent, twisting turns and drop many stories provides a template for a risky situation. Roller coaster accidents, however, are exceedingly rare. A long-term Consumer Product Safety Commission study estimated about 4.5 deaths at amusement parks per year. Of these, about four were roller coaster deaths, according to a ten-year look across fatalities in the U.S. This reassurance of safety is a large reason millions of people continue to seek out roller coasters as death-defying thrill rides. What Urbonas suggested was to take this one step further: what if a ride could be a person’s last exciting burst on this Earth?
“It’s a euthansia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to humanely, with euphoria and pleasure, kill a human being,” Urbonas said, presenting his 1:500 scale model in a Vimeo presentation of the Science Gallery’s 2011 event.
The proposed roller coaster would measure about 4.5 miles long and stand over 1600 feet in the air. These components form the two key elements of the Euthanasia Coaster: a huge drop to propel the car and a series of shrinking loops that maintain a lethal speed of 10G’s. (One ‘G’ equals the acceleration of gravity, approximately 32.2 feet per second per second at sea level. The measurement is specifically used to determine the effect of acceleration upon the body.) Riding the monster would push the human body to the limit, blood forced to its extremities for a full minute. The rider eventually suffers g-force-induced loss of consciousness followed by death by cerebral hypoxia — a lack of oxygen to the brain. While this sounds painful, it’s quite the opposite.
“When (your brain) starts to suffocate, people usually become… euphoric because (the) brain concentrates on very vital activities,” Urbonas said.
Urbonas used his knowledge of pilot training and g-force adjustments to help build the euthanasia machine. Basically, you go “Woooh!” for a few seconds before you just pass out. This is intentional as the designer wanted to offer an alternative to “medicalized, secularized, and sterilized” palliative suicide.
“In the roller coaster, I introduced a ritual of doing that,” Urbonas said. “Ritual is brought back to the contemporary description of death.”
In other words, you get to go out with a bang instead of being surrounded by alien machines and tubes.
While the idea of facing death is dark, providing a gentle exit to the other side remains an idea intriguing enough idea to resonate for over ten years after Urbonas proposed his humane death machine. You can even ride a virtual version of the Euthanasia Coaster, courtesy of YouTube user Kester who created a simulation on Planet Coaster in 2016: