Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

Suicide By Ballpoint Pen

i-96706f47474f54a696ead23041159617-ballpoint pen.bmp

An unfortunate, but amazing case: a 25-year-old schizophrenic man shoved a 14.5-cm-long ballpoint pen through his eye socket, all the way to his cerebellum (in the rear of the brain). Hospital staff found him lying in a pool of blood, and the man told doctors he ‘had torn his eyes because it tickled and that 10 years earlier he had shot himself in one eye with an airgun rifle.’ His doctors were puzzled: the man slipped quickly into a coma, but there was no sign of serious trauma to the area other than a small hematoma. A CT scan (above) provided more baffling information, which the doctors initially interpreted as a bullet wound in the left parieto-occipital region. When the patient died 4 days after the injury, the ballpoint pen was discovered wedged deep into the brain. The blunt end of the pen, with cap, had been inserted first, with the cap lodged well into the right lobe of the cerebellum. This is one of the only known suicides on record from “low-velocity” penetrating objects.

Its amazing that, with a 14 cm plastic pen stuck in his brain, the patient was still conscious enough to discuss his injury with hospital staff. What was he thinking as he slowly pushed that pen further and further into his brain?

Lunetta P, Ohberg A, Sajantila A. Suicide by intracerebellar ballpoint pen. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2002 Dec;23(4):334-7.

Hat tip A Good Poop.


  1. #1 Mo
    August 28, 2007

    Maybe he was thinking:

    “If I can just severe my corona radiata…”

  2. #2 Mo
    August 28, 2007

    Oops…I meant “sever”.

  3. #3 Warren
    August 28, 2007

    It seems the pen can, indeed, be at least as mighty as the sword.

    What was he thinking? Hmm.

    Look what I can do!

  4. #4 Boosterz
    August 28, 2007

    How did he get it that far in there? The end of the pen is a good 2 inches in. It’s even with the back of his eyeball. Was he ramming it in with another pen or something?

    What do you want to bet he was trying to stab one of the voices in his head or something along those lines.

  5. #5 Anne-Marie
    August 28, 2007

    If you read much Stephen King, you’ll notice that he can rarely write a book where at least one person does not die from having an object shoved through their right eye. The next time I read one of his novels, I will definitely think of that X-ray image…

  6. #6 MarcusBrutus
    August 28, 2007

    I guess he was trying to write a suicide note, ran out of paper, and decided the back of his skull would make a good “sticky note…”

  7. #7 Shaun
    August 28, 2007

    I’m so glad you didn’t pose the overly obvious question of “what was going through his head at the time?” Oh, wait, I guess I did. I will now slink away in shame.

  8. #8 Shelley Batts
    August 28, 2007

    Someone emailed to let me know I hadn’t posted the source article (whoops!), so I just posted it now, with a link to the abstract, if anyone is interested.

  9. #9 Zeno, Internet Warlord
    August 28, 2007

    This image needs to be put on a hoodie. You make think it insensitive or whatever, but that would sell like hotcakes. Hotcakes in a lumberjack factory.

  10. #10 anonymous
    August 28, 2007

    kmon everybody knows that lumberjacks are abducted and enslaved members of YMCA.

    note to self: pen through eye suicide; possible…

  11. #11 sandswipe
    August 28, 2007

    Suicide in general is a terrible, terrible idea, but if you’re going to do it you might as well do something to make the news. It’s your last chance to be inventive, might as well use your brain.

    Although honestly I would have been more impressed if he’d managed to get one of those little paper cups pills come in to the back of his skull. Now THAT would be confusing to the doctors.

  12. #12 Josh Rosenau
    August 29, 2007

    I’m astounded that no one has yet pointed out that the Simpsons anticipated this by years. Homer is stupid because of a crayon he lodged in his brain in childhood, while testing how many he could fit into his nose. It went undiscovered because Dr. Hibbert’s thumb always covered x-rays of that part of Homer’s head. He removes the crayon, becomes a genius, then (spoiler!) realizes he’s losing touch with his family, and reinserts the crayon.

    Perhaps now that episode will have to have a warning against trying it at home?

  13. #13 SELaplana
    August 29, 2007

    i rather jump into a cliff than doing this. it really hurts

  14. #14 Mo
    August 29, 2007

    While sifting through Good Poop, you missed this gem from the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences:

    Phantom erection after amputation of penis, by C. M. Fisher.

    I couldn’t resist posting the abstract.

  15. #15 George
    August 29, 2007

    Just a little question here — how did doctors possibly think that it was a bullet wound. I realize than my perceptions might be affected by knowing the punch line, but that really clearly looks like a ballpoint pen in his brain.

  16. #16 Doug
    August 29, 2007

    Hi Shelly,

    Similar but not identical to Phineas Gage.

    “Gage’s case is cited as among the first evidence suggesting that damage to the frontal lobes could alter aspects of personality and affect socially appropriate interaction. Before this time the frontal lobes were largely thought to have little role in behavior. Neurologist Antonio Damasio has written extensively on Gage, as well as on various patients he has studied which, in his personal view, had similar brain injuries. In a theory he calls the somatic marker hypothesis, [AR] Damasio suggests a link between the frontal lobes, emotion and practical decision making. He sees Gage’s case as playing a crucial role in the history of neuroscience, arguing that Gage’s story “was the historical beginnings of the study of the biological basis of behavior”
    Antonio R. Damasio (1995) ‘Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain’, ISBN 0-380-72647-5.

  17. #17 Dan
    August 31, 2007

    “Oi lads, Watch this”

  18. #18 deanne
    August 31, 2007

    Thanks for posting this – wild!

  19. #19 Luna_the_cat
    August 31, 2007

    No…just sickeningly tragic.

    How much pain does someone has to have, how screwed up does their controlling organ (the brain, the central nervous system bit supposed to be in charge of survival strategies) have to be, for someone to deliberately kill themselves this way and not even say what they had done?

    This wasn’t done for attention. This was done because someone was ill and couldn’t live in his own body. There was a person behind this spectacle, and now he doesn’t exist any more because of how f***ed up his body and mental state were. Wotta laugh, eh?

  20. #20 Shelley Batts
    August 31, 2007

    Luna, it is quite tragic. I posted on the topic not to poke fun, but as an interesting and amazing case which is one-of-a-kind in the literature.

  21. #21 Luna_the_cat
    August 31, 2007

    To be fair, Shelley, I wasn’t responding to your post so much as to the other comments.

  22. #22 Simfish InquilineKea
    September 1, 2007

    holy crap

    holy crap

    I never knew suicide was that easy (though this carries a risk of survival and permanent damage)

  23. #23 Vantek
    September 2, 2007

    Easy? Pull a plastic bag over your head, THAT’s easy…

  24. #24 Vantek
    September 2, 2007

    I don’t think this was “suicide” though – it was more like self-harm from insanity that ended up being lethal. X(

  25. #25 ian
    September 2, 2007

    i reckon he was thinking, “jesus it still itches”

  26. #26 Calamari
    September 3, 2007

    a devious plan indeed, with the murder weapon safely encased inside his own head they’ll never know how he did it. genius, pure asinine, psychotic, imbacilic genius.

  27. #27 Jon
    September 3, 2007

    Now I really, really wish my university carried that journal. That’s fascinating!

  28. #28 mick
    September 3, 2007

    this bloke must have been arguing with himself and said “i’ll stab you in the eye”, and replied to himself “yeah do it i’d like to see that”

  29. #29 Chris
    September 9, 2007

    It’s scary how creative people can be in coming up with ways to off themselves.

  30. #30 Izabael DaJinn
    October 1, 2007

    Whoa! It looks like it was inserted with a single smooth stab. Wonder how the heck he did it? Maybe put the pen to his eye and then smashed his head to the wall to nail it in?

    It’s creepy enough I could have nightmares though to be honest 🙁

  31. #31 LLF
    November 14, 2007

    I have heared of a simmlier incident; not so long a ago a RAF man accused of mudering his wife, tried to kill him self in the same fashion but was unsuccessful as he only became paralised.

  32. #32 Ian
    November 28, 2007

    15 years working in a 200 bed secure psych hospital…..

    Bic pen against wall into heart (successful)

    Toothbrush (with little rubber pick thing) into brainstem via left eye (unsuccessful)

    Hair brush (the spiky wire type) in rectum..

    Shotgun under chin, removed most of face….that’s not unusual, but this patient had the motivation to rack another shell into the breach and finish the job (witnessed by family)

    when people are really sick, there are no limits…

  33. #33 chloe
    November 30, 2007

    that’s a scary thing using a ballpen

  34. #34 film izle
    September 25, 2008

    Thanks for posting this – wild!

  35. #35 film izle
    September 29, 2008

    It’s scary how creative people can be in coming up with ways to off themselves.

  36. #36 cord
    October 3, 2008

    my people are frozen and broken

  37. #37 filim
    November 17, 2008

    thanks baby

  38. #38 mzik dinle
    November 17, 2008

    thank you beatufull

  39. #39 film izle
    November 23, 2008

    asy? Pull a plastic bag over your head, THAT’s easy…

  40. #40 Pixelim
    January 8, 2009

    It’s one of the worst things that can happen for human. How stupid doctors exists on the world?

    Pixelim Media

  41. #41 Fozia
    April 13, 2009

    Thanks again for sharing all your entry! I agree with them all!

  42. #42 maddie
    November 17, 2009

    Hello. I was wondering if intracerebellar penetration with a pen is possible through the ear opening, as seen on the anime Monster.
    Nice blog, take care.

  43. #43 Nancy
    July 27, 2010

    Hello? Another case of not enough meds? Or effective meds? I have 5 bucks that says the poor tortured soul was on Abilify.

  44. #44 Love Spells
    September 15, 2010

    I do not like stories like this, it is not positive, I tell people to think positive and positive things will happen

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