1. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    06 Aug '14 06:272 edits
    Coauthor of retracted stem cell papers commits suicide By Carolyn Y. Johnson | Boston Globe Staff August 05, 2014

    "According to The Japan Times, Yoshiki Sasai, 52, hanged himself and left behind two suicide notes and three other notes.

    The controversy over a high-profile stem cell finding by Japanese and Boston scientists that was retracted last month took a tragic turn Tuesday when a Japanese scientist who co-authored the work committed suicide, according to Japanese news reports. According to The Japan Times, Yoshiki Sasai, 52, hanged himself and left behind two suicide notes and three other notes. One note was addressed to Haruko Obokata, the young scientist who led the work and has been accused of scientific misconduct by Japan’s RIKEN institution, where she is now trying to repeat the experiment.

    It said, “Be sure to reproduce STAP cells,” sources told the Japan Times. Sasai was a senior co-author of the paper and oversaw Obokata’s writing, according to the newspaper, which also reported he had been hospitalized in March due to psychological stress.

    The problems with the stem cell research have put Japanese scientists under an intense media spotlight, with several issuing public apologies. Just last month, there were reports that Obokata was chased by reporters on a motorcycle and then through a hotel. She is also said to have been treated at a hospital on and off since errors in the stem cell work began coming to light earlier this year, according to Japanese news reports.

    The experiments in one of the papers were designed and overseen by Dr. Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiolgist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who originated the idea for the work. In two papers published in the journal Nature in January, the researchers reported that it was possible to create powerful stem cells able to become any type of tissue in the body simply by dipping mature cells in acid. The technique was called STAP, short for stimulus-triggered acquistion of pluripotency.

    The stem cell scandal has led to uncertainty in Japan over the future of the Center for Developmental Biology at RIKEN, which an outside committee had suggested may need to be shut down. In a statement released in July when the papers were retracted, Sasai apologized.

    “As a deputy director of our center, with responsibility for nurturing young researchers, I feel a deep responsibility for what has happened, and plan to comply with whatever decision RIKEN finally reaches regarding my own status,” Sasai wrote.

    RIKEN officials released statements expressing sorrow and shock at his death.

    Dr. George Q. Daley, a stem cell scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said that Sasai’s death was a huge loss and that his contributions had been profound, launching stem cell scientists on a quest to use stem cells to grow miniature versions of organs in a dish. Initially, many scientists said that it was the fact that stem cell heavyweights such as Sasai were co-authors of the two stem cell papers that gave credence to the acid stem cell papers’ stunning finding.

    “Sasai was an expert in coaxing embryonic stem cells to become mini-organs, and in a startling contribution he showed that the retina could self-organize from stem cells in a dish, a breakthrough with tremendous promise for treating blindness,” Daley wrote in an e-mail. “He was a gifted scientist destined to continue to make momentous contributions, and his death is a tragic loss to the scientific community.”

    The journal Nature also released a statement: “Yoshiki Sasai was an exceptional scientist and he has left an extraordinary legacy of pioneering work across many fields within stem cell and developmental biology, including organogenesis and neurogenesis. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

    Related coverage: • Electrifying stem cell finding retracted • Fraud alleged in findings on stem cells • Scientists discover a new, simpler way to make stem cells • Evan Horowitz: Studies show many studies are false • Nature’s retraction notice

    Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/science/2014/08/05/author-retracted-stem-cell-papers-commits-suicide/PjUPxOBh3k2qnGPIzQMwHL/story.html
    ________________________________________________

    Is psychological stress of this magnitude and work related suicide common among research scientists or an exception?
  2. Cape Town
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    06 Aug '14 06:53
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Is psychological stress of this magnitude and work related suicide common among research scientists or an exception?
    Just as a guess, it probably has as much to do with Japanese culture as being a research scientist.
    But generally, most research scientists do not become that infamous, so they wouldn't encounter stress caused by infamy. I don't know what other stresses they may be subject to.
  3. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    06 Aug '14 13:57
    "Yoshiki Sasai, 52, hanged himself..."

    Why choose this method of suicide? Wouldn't an accomplished research scientist know of a painless chemical? Punishment?
  4. Standard memberDeepThought
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    06 Aug '14 14:26
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    "Yoshiki Sasai, 52, hanged himself..."

    Why choose this method of suicide? Wouldn't an accomplished research scientist know of a painless chemical? Punishment?
    Suicide is an irrational act, in general, so it shouldn't surprise us if the method seems irrational. Also, chemical means of ending life are not that easy, otherwise they wouldn't have such problems administering the death penalty by lethal injection. A stem cell researcher may not know what to use or just not have access to a suitable chemical. For example hemlock works by interfering with motor neurones, so one stops breathing, leading to carbon dioxide poisoning, which is unpleasant. The obvious thing to go for is a massive opiate overdose, but there may be problems I don't know about and it isn't necessarily easily obtained.
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    06 Aug '14 16:216 edits
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Suicide is an irrational act, in general, so it shouldn't surprise us if the method seems irrational. Also, chemical means of ending life are not that easy, otherwise they wouldn't have such problems administering the death penalty by lethal injection. A stem cell researcher may not know what to use or just not have access to a suitable chemical. For ...[text shortened]... overdose, but there may be problems I don't know about and it isn't necessarily easily obtained.
    If you want to commit suicide without pain or discomfort, using my scientific knowledge, one of the best ways is get some pure inert gas from the lab that contains no oxygen; either argon gas or nitrogen gas would do fine, then just tie on a mask on your face and breath it in. Without causing any unpleasant sensation of suffocation, it painlessly puts you into a comma and then stops your heart -quick and painless death with no unpleasantness.
    I still don't understand why they don't do that for the death penalty ( not that I agree with the death penalty ) . Perhaps they don't do it out of revenge -keep the death penalty grotesque for extra punishing effect.
  6. Cape Town
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    06 Aug '14 18:161 edit
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Why choose this method of suicide? Wouldn't an accomplished research scientist know of a painless chemical? Punishment?
    If you are in such emotional pain that you want to kill yourself, a little physical pain isn't all that important - and might even be something you want to distract you from the emotional pain.
    I think many suiciders go for what they have heard other people using eg:
    1. Hanging.
    2. Jump from a high place.
    3. Gun.
    4. Overdose.
    You will probably find which method gets used the most varies considerably depending on the part of the world.

    edit:
    Heres how they do it in the US:
    http://lostallhope.com/suicide-statistics/us-methods-suicide

    But maybe we shouldn't be asking why he chose a given method, but why he didn't get appropriate counselling, or if he did, why it didn't work.
  7. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    06 Aug '14 20:05
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    Suicide is an irrational act, in general, so it shouldn't surprise us if the method seems irrational. Also, chemical means of ending life are not that easy, otherwise they wouldn't have such problems administering the death penalty by lethal injection. A stem cell researcher may not know what to use or just not have access to a suitable chemical. For ...[text shortened]... overdose, but there may be problems I don't know about and it isn't necessarily easily obtained.
    "According to The Japan Times, Yoshiki Sasai, 52, hanged himself and left behind two suicide notes and three other notes." (OP) The more I contemplate Yoshiki Sasai's suicide by hanging, after writing five notes presumably containing his sententious final words to mankind [as represented by close family, colleagues and friends], the more I'm inclined to conclude that the event may have been intended to memorialize his contrition and apology to the scientific community.
  8. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    06 Aug '14 20:08
    Originally posted by humy
    If you want to commit suicide without pain or discomfort, using my scientific knowledge, one of the best ways is get some pure inert gas from the lab that contains no oxygen; either argon gas or nitrogen gas would do fine, then just tie on a mask on your face and breath it in. Without causing any unpleasant sensation of suffocation, it painlessly puts you into ...[text shortened]... ps they don't do it out of revenge -keep the death penalty grotesque for extra punishing effect.
    humy, thanks for you scientific erudition. Question on a lower plane: how about an overdose of sleeping pills?
  9. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    06 Aug '14 20:13
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    If you are in such emotional pain that you want to kill yourself, a little physical pain isn't all that important - and might even be something you want to distract you from the emotional pain.
    I think many suiciders go for what they have heard other people using eg:
    1. Hanging.
    2. Jump from a high place.
    3. Gun.
    4. Overdose.
    You will probably find ...[text shortened]... a given method, but why he didn't get appropriate counselling, or if he did, why it didn't work.
    twhitehead, you've made a compelling argument for "emotional pain" as a contributing factor to his life ending decision. One question: Given the context of "retracted stem cell papers" is it possible he tried to comply with an ancestral honor code?
  10. Cape Town
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    06 Aug '14 20:32
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    twhitehead, you've made a compelling argument for "emotional pain" as a contributing factor to his life ending decision. One question: Given the context of "retracted stem cell papers" is it possible he tried to comply with an ancestral honor code?
    I believe honor is more important culturally in Japan than most other parts of the world, but I wouldn't describe his actions as complying with an honor code. Now if he had stuck a sword in his belly, then that might be a more accurate description.
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    06 Aug '14 21:111 edit
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    humy, thanks for you scientific erudition. Question on a lower plane: how about an overdose of sleeping pills?
    I think sleeping pills is probably the simplest painless way to do it although they are a lot slower to work than my inert gas method and you might prefer it to be quick. The problem I see with killing myself ( if I wanted to ) with a slower method is that it gives me more possible time to think about it which brings with it the risk that I may change my mind when it is too late to undue the suicide process that I started.
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