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Last summer, a University of Washington parking-lot attendant hanged himself from the side of a campus garage while setting himself on fire. The flames burned through the cord, dropping him into the alley below, where he died of two simultaneous causes—burning and falling.

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The same day somewhere else in King County, a man who'd hanged himself in his bathroom nine years earlier finally succumbed to anoxic encephalopathy and died: a time-delayed suicide. Two days after that, a 65-year-old woman took an overdose of prescription pills and drowned herself in Lake Washington. Two days after that, a 66-year-old man overdosed on sedatives, antidepressants, and alcohol in his kitchen in Kent. One week and six King County suicides later (three shootings, two hangings, and one asphyxiation by plastic bag), another Kent sexagenarian killed himself by cutting his feet and legs with a knife. He died, according to the King County medical examiner's report, of "exsanguination," the simple act of diverting a few ounces of blood from the inside of his body to the outside—an act that most people are reluctant to discuss...

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