New York Times: Those methods that require forethought or exertion on the actor’s part (taking an overdose of pills, say, or cutting your wrists), and thus most strongly suggest premeditation, happen to be the methods with the least chance of “success.”

Do many people who attempt to end their life and leave their loved ones behind via cutting their wrists stay alive as the New York Times article suggests?

(If you are thinking about committing suicide, you are not alone. Get help. Here are some people you can contact.)

  • Good question. The Wikipedia article doesn't provide a reference for that sentence, other than to establish the outcomes of traumatic shock.
    – user5582
    Aug 25, 2013 at 16:23
  • 1
    @ChrisW I think a question like "Source [X] claims that it is possible to make an IED. Is that true?" would be answerable by simply linking to many reliable sources establishing that people have made IEDs. The answer to this question needs a bit more detail because establishing that there exists at least one person who's committed suicide by cutting their wrists doesn't fully answer the question "is wrist cutting fatal".
    – user5582
    Aug 25, 2013 at 19:02
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    @Sancho One could make an IED question more detailed: is it possible to do Foo successfully by following this Bar recipe which I found at Baz? I would simply not publish any information on a topic such as this, noting that SE ranks highly on Google searches. Although any answer to it may be true, and on-topic according the site rules/format, either the answer wouldn't useful, or I wouldn't want it to be useful/used: because, "Speak only words that do no harm." Anyway, that is how I feel about this question.
    – ChrisW
    Aug 25, 2013 at 19:15
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    i swear you guys are reading too much into this
    – Muz
    Aug 26, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    I haven't downvoted this question yet because I can't think of a good rationale for doing so, but I don't like it.
    – Golden Cuy
    Aug 30, 2014 at 3:28

1 Answer 1


Some people have died by cutting their wrist or forearm.

When suicide victims choose this method [suicidal incision], they use an easily accessible area and clearly prefer the wrist or the antecubital fossa. (Riviello, 2009. p. 18)

Wrist cutting is rarely lethal.

It is nearly impossible to kill oneself by sanguination secondary to lacerated wrists. The arteries lie deep, protected by muscle, bone, and tendon. in order to get the razor blade deep enough to sever the artery, the suicide must cut through skin, tendons, and muscle. [...] As he becomes unconscious, there is always the chance the blood will coagulate and the bleeding cease before death. (Williams, 2009. p. 40)

It has long been established that overdoses of medication and wrist cutting are low lethality methods. (Rhyne et al. 2010)

This has also been studied in jails, and it is relatively non-lethal, but it can lead to death.

The mortality rates of inmates' attempts by hanging (52 deaths in 602 attempts) was 19 times greater than inmates who cut themselves (1 death in 275 attempts). (McKEE 1988)

Suicidal intent

Most wrist cutting is not done with the intent of killing oneself.

Interviews with 139 suicidal patients indicate a tendency for suicide attempters using wrist cutting to score low on the Suicidal Intent Scale. (Nielsen et al. 1993)


GEOFFREY R. McKEE (1998) LETHAL VS NONLETHAL SUICIDE ATTEMPTS IN JAIL. Psychological Reports: Volume 82, Issue , pp. 611-614. doi: 10.2466/pr0.1998.82.2.611

Ralph Riviello. Manual of Forensic Emergency Medicine. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009

Reuel Williams. The Art of Suicide. AuthorHouse, 2009

Clinton Ernest Rhyne PhD, Donald I. Templer PhD*, Lillian G. Brown PhD, Noel B. Peters PhD. Dimensions of Suicide: Perceptions of Lethality, Time, and Agony. 30 DEC 2010. DOI: 10.1111/j.1943-278X.1995.tb00959.x

Nielsen, Anette S.; Stenager, Elsebeth; Brahe, Unni B. Attempted suicide, suicidal intent, and alcohol. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, Vol 14(1), 1993, 32-38.

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    Does this consider both lateral and longitudinal cutting? My understanding was that a cut down the arm, along a vein, is highly fatal, while a cross cut (the one usually referred to as "cutting your wrist") is rarely.
    – Bobson
    Sep 3, 2014 at 17:45
  • I'm also told that sleeping tablets have an ingredient that would make you throw up in high doses, calibrated to have no effect on normal use but removing a lethal dose of tablets from your body. If someone could confirm...
    – gnasher729
    Jan 11, 2022 at 10:28

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