Suicidal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning by Formic and Sulfuric Acids

Kasey Kreutz, Travis Danielsen, Reade A. Quinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1987, a case report was published in the German journal Archiv für Kriminologie describing an apparently novel method of suicide in which the decedent produced a lethal amount of carbon monoxide by mixing formic acid and sulfuric acid. This method of chemical suicide remained obscure until 2003, when Dr. Philip Nitschke, a vocal supporter of assisted suicide, began promoting a homemade carbon monoxide generator which utilized this same chemical reaction. In 2006, he coauthored The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which provided further details about how the device worked. Pro-voluntary euthanasia organizations and online forums continue to provide information about this method, promoting it as painless and efficient. There have been nine case reports of suicides and attempted suicides using this chemical reaction, with five reported in Europe, three in the United States, and one in Taiwan. Two additional cases were reported in news articles that did not correspond to known case reports, indicating that this method of suicide is more common than the scientific literature would suggest. We present the case of a 44-year-old male who learned about this method of chemical suicide online and filmed the suicidal act while verbally recording carbon monoxide levels prior to losing consciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Forensic Pathology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chemical suicide
  • Forensic pathology
  • Formic acid
  • Sulfuric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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