Death is scary. Roller coasters are scarier. So the “Euthanasia Coaster?” Terrifying.
Lithuanian engineer Julijonas Urbonas designed the coaster in 2010 while a Ph.D. candidate in design interactions at the Royal College of Art in London. The idea behind the coaster was to provide an elegant, euphoric end-of-life experience for those with terminal illnesses.
The Euthanasia Coaster starts with a long, slow climb up 500 meters. This is three times taller than the current tallest roller coaster, the 139 meter tall “Kingda Ka,” located in New Jersey. This is intended to give the rider a few moments to reflect on their life. Once the coaster reaches its peak, the rider must press the “fall” button, at which point the car will drop 500 meters and take you right into the first loop, which is where most riders will die. If the first loop doesn’t kill you, one of the six consecutive loops after will surely finish the job.
The idea is that the coaster, going 100 meters a second, would cause a G-force-induced loss of consciousness due to cerebral hypoxia (lack of oxygen reaching the brain), which often causes a sense of euphoria as the brain cells die off. Urbonas believes that this will humanely “induce various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death… The fatal journey is made pleasing, elegant and meaningful.”
Save for a scale model (shown above), the Euthanasia Coaster has not been built and likely never will. For one thing, the Kingda Ka coaster took 18 months and $25 million to construct. The Euthanasia Coaster would likely cost significantly more, take more time to build, and frankly, appeals to a much smaller segment of the population – with no repeat riders.
Groups both supporting and opposing euthanasia have taken issue with the Euthanasia Coaster. Dr. Peter Saunders of the anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing says that a human life can never be taken humanely with elegance and euphoria, and believes that the coaster would most likely cause a person’s final moments to be filled with “vertigo and fright.” Euthanasia defender Derek Humphry, president of the Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization, believes that the coaster has nothing to do with true euthanasia: “A good death is at home, with family, and a doctor present to relieve pain.”
There has been no commercial interest in Urbonas’ design — which doesn’t bother him. Urbonas never meant for it to be an argument for or against euthanasia; as an artist, he just wanted to offer “food for thought.”