If you really want to die, make sure you are left undisturbed for at least 24 hours. Eat a light meal, take an antihistamine, and take great care in chosing the right location. For the longer it takes to find you, the slimmer are the chances of reanimation."
Michel Fazilleau, 23, followed these instructions to the letter before swallowing "a cocktail" of psychoactive pills. He died at a campground near Secondigny, in central France, on Aug. 3.
For Patrick Bondy, 27 and unemployed, the solution was found on page 224: "Inject 40g of nembutal a pentobarbiturate . Reaction is immediate." 22-year old De'nis Ottermann died in his apartment in Strasbourg from an overdose of mild tranquilizers taken exactly as prescribed on page 232.
Next to each of the inert bodies was a copy of France's best-selling book: "Suicide: Operating Instructions," a 276-page how, where and when guide to self-destruction.
The gruesome post-mortem discovery triggered a violent wave of outrage. At the same time it sent the book to the top of France's non-fiction best-seller list. Today, "Suicide" is being held directly responsible for more than half a dozen deaths since its release last April.
"It was inevitable," explained publisher Alain Moreau. "The higher the sale -- 50,000 copies sold -- the greater the probabilities of reaching the public."
"Suicide" methodically provides the reader with a lengthy, historical insight on suicide throughout the ages, offers legal advice for the deceased's kin and lists elaborate and technically precise instructions for use of pills, capsules, injections and exotic poisons (i.e. potassium cyanide, apple seeds and Hemlock, complete with their lethal dosages).
And, much like a practical handbook, the guide throws in suggestions and hints such as "make sure you have destroyed all prescription bottles," "check expiration dates" and "go to a hotel."
Authors Claude Guillon and Yves le Bonniec, both veterans of the French Association for the Right to Die in Dignity (ADMD) -- like Britain's "Exit" or the United States' "Hemlock" -- contend in their book that "death is too serious an issue to be left to individual initiatives." The authors also claim in "Suicide" the right to "a non-violent death in conditions which do not degrade human dignity . . . by giving people the possibility of dying by methods less atrocious than the classic ones of razor blades, revolvers or hanging."
But to doctors, the Union of Pharmaceutical Industry, the National Federation of Comsummers' Cooperatives, politicians and lay-Frenchmen alike, the book is a "fraud," "a nightmare" and "terribly misleading."
Professor Pie rre Moron, who heads the reanimation unit in Toulouse, argues that "the recipes are ineffective." But more important for Moron is that the book fails to consider "situations that are medically curable" (psychosis, melancholia, depressive states).
His colleague, Jean-Marc Alby, a psychiatrist at a major Parisian hospital, agrees. "Nine out of 10 people need help to be taught how to live, not how to die," says Alby.
The debate has grown into such proportions that Minister of Health Jack Ralite openly admitted that the book left him "disgusted and indignant." Both official and private efforts to have the book banned have failed, as French courts have so far found no legal ground on which to move against it.
"Suicide" will be translated into seven languages and U.S. publishers Doubleday and Putnam are currently negotiating rights to the book. When will it be released in the States? Says publisher Moreau, "There is no way of telling, it may have to be adapted somewhat to the American mentality.