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A suicide booth is a fictional machine for committing suicide. Suicide booths appear in numerous fictional settings, including the American animated series Futurama and the manga Gunnm/Battle Angel Alita. Compulsory self-execution booths were also featured in an episode of the original Star Trek TV series entitled "A Taste of Armageddon."
The concept can be found as early as the 1895 story The Repairer of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers, in which the Governor of New York presides over the opening of the first "Government Lethal Chamber" in New York City in the then-future year of 1920, following the repeal of laws against suicide: "The Government has seen fit to acknowledge the right of man to end an existence which may have become intolerable to him, through physical suffering or mental despair." (...) He paused, and turned to the white Lethal Chamber. The silence in the street was absolute. "There a painless death awaits him who can no longer bear the sorrows of this life."
Writer Martin Amis provoked another small controversy in January 2010 when he advocated 'suicide booths' for the elderly, of whom he wrote: "There’ll be a population of demented very old people, like an invasion of terrible immigrants, stinking out the restaurants and cafes and shops...There should be a booth on every corner where you could get a Martini and a medal"
In Robert Sheckley's Immortality, Inc. (1958), the protagonist wakes up in an unfamiliar future and, while wandering dazed in a starkly changed New York, finds himself in what he thinks might be a bread line, but turns out to be a line for the suicide booths. In the movie Freejack (loosely based on Immortality, Inc.), suicide booths are not shown, but advertisements for suicide-assistance services are visible against the city skyline.
In Ivan Efremov's 1968 novel The Bull's Hour, suicide booths are referred to as the "palaces of tender death" (Template:Lang-ru). They're commonly used on the planet Tormance to control the birth rate.
Kurt Vonnegut's "purple-roofed Ethical Suicidal Parlors" appear in two stories: "Welcome to the Monkey House (short story)" and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater". In these Ethical Suicide Parlors, a patron receives a free meal in the adjoining Howard Johnson's diner before committing suicide. It is considered a citizen's patriotic duty to commit suicide.
While not a booth, suicide chambers are used to allow people to choose a pleasant form of euthanasia in the movie Soylent Green. The character Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson) leaves a note saying that he is "going home," a euphemism for committing state-approved suicide via a large, well-appointed, attended suicide chamber. Music and a video chosen by the client are played while he or she waits for the drugs to take their fatal effect. Roth chooses Ludwig van Beethoven's "Pastorale" and a video of Earth's natural wonders and scenes of pastoral beauty.
In the world of Futurama, Stop-and-Drop suicide booths resemble phone booths and cost one quarter per use. The booths have at least three modes of death: "quick and painless," "slow and horrible", and "clumsy bludgeoning" though, it is also implied that "electrocution, with a side order of poison" exists , and that the eyes can be scooped out for an extra charge. After a mode of death is selected and executed, the machine cheerfully says, "You are now dead. Thank you for using Stop-and-Drop, America's favorite suicide booth since 2008", or in Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs, "You are now dead, please take your receipt."
The first appearance of a suicide booth in Futurama is in "Space Pilot 3000", in which the character Bender wants to use it. Fry at first mistakes the suicide booth for a phone booth, and Bender offers to share it with him. Fry requests a collect call, which the machine interprets as a "slow and horrible" death. It then turns out that "slow and horrible" can be survived by pressing oneself against the side of the booth, leading Bender to accuse the machine of being a rip-off. In Bender's Big Score, after failing to initially chase down Fry in the year 2000, Bender wants to kill himself, but mistakes a regular phone booth for a suicide booth. A suicide booth reappeared in The Beast with a Billion Backs where Bender once again attempts to end his life.
According to series co-creator Matt Groening, the suicide booth concept was inspired by a 1937 Donald Duck cartoon, "Modern Inventions", in which Donald Duck visits a Museum of the Future and is nearly killed by various push button gadgets. The suicide booth was closely enough associated with Bender's character so that in 2001 it was featured as the display stand for the Bender action figure. It was also one of the many features of the series which troubled the executives at Fox when Groening and David X. Cohen first pitched the series.
In the seventeenth season Simpsons episode "Million Dollar Abie", a suicide machine called a "Die Pod" (a pun on the iPod) is featured. The Die Pod allows the patient to choose visual and auditory themes that present themselves as the patient is killed. It also shows 3 different modes, namely, "Quick Painless Death", "Slow and Painful Death", and "Megadeath" (a pun on the band of the same name). It was a reference to the suicide building in Soylent Green. Being a direct parody of the aforementioned scene, Abraham Simpson receives the opportunity to select his final vision and musical accompaniment: 1960s-era footage of "cops beatin' up hippies" to the tune of "PEnnsylvania 6-5000" by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "A Taste of Armageddon", people who were deemed war casualties by the government of Eminiar VII were required to enter suicide booths. Treaty arrangements require that everyone that is calculated as "dead" in the hypothetical thermonuclear war simulated using computers actually dies, without actually damaging any infrastructure. In the end, the computers are destroyed, the war can no longer be calculated in this way, the treaty breaks down, and faced with a real threat, (presumably) peace begins.
After the Heaven's Gate mass suicide event was linked by tabloids to an extreme fascination with science fiction and Star Trek in particular it was noted that multiple episodes, including "A Taste of Armageddon", actually advocated an anti-suicide standpoint as opposed to the viewpoint expressed by the Heaven's Gate group.
The closest thing to a suicide booth to have been actually constructed is the "Euthanasia Machine" invented by Philip Nitschke, consisting of software titled "Deliverance", which asks the patient a series of questions, and automatically administers a lethal injection if the correct answers are made. The system and questions are so constructed that the supplier of the machine cannot be held responsible for ending the life of the patient, who takes responsibility by operating it.
- Long, Camilla (2010-01-24). "Martin Amis and the sex war". The Times (London). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6996980.ece?token=null&offset=36&page=4. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
- G. K. Chesterton. Orthodoxy. pp. 64–65.
- "Space Pilot 3000"
- Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs
- Futurama: Bender's Big Score
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