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Fake Assisted Suicide

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"Why I do trifle thus with his despair
Is done to cure it."
Edgar, King Lear

A character intends to commit suicide and solicits the help of another. The other pretends to go along with it, but sabotages the attempt. Typically the goal is to convince the would-be suicide that their life has been miraculously spared, or just to buy them time to reconsider, though more cynical motives are possible.

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Can be seen as a subtrope of Interrupted Suicide (the interruption occurs during the planning process, rather than later), or as a way of invoking Bungled Suicide. Likely to lead to a Happily Failed Suicide.

Compare Talking Down the Suicidal, where a similar effect is achieved without deception.


Examples:

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     Film  

  • In M*A*S*H, a character becomes suicidal after discovering he is impotent. His comrades arrange an elaborate living funeral for him, capped off by a putative suicide pill — but instead of dying he wakes up in bed beside a willing nurse, who cures his affliction.

     Literature  

  • In Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Dr. Gonzo (after eating a huge amount of acid) asks Raoul Duke to throw the tape player into his bathtub "when 'White Rabbit' peaks." Duke instead throws a grapefruit into the tub and makes away with the tape player.
  • In Agatha Christie's thriller Destination Unknown, a secret agent recruits a suicidal young woman, telling her that if she's decided to die, she might as well make herself useful to her country, and promising that at the end of the mission, he'll help her with it. Naturally, at the end she's found happiness with another agent and has no intention of killing herself (just as her recruiter intended).
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love. Lazarus Long is twenty three hundred years old and just wants to die. The staff of the clinic holding him sabotages his suicide device so that when he tries to use it he's just rendered unconscious instead of dying. They do this so they can continue the rejuvenation process that will make him feel like wanting to live again. The "suicide switch" also wipes his short-term memory so he won't remember that it didn't work and will think that his "grandson" is honoring all terms of the deal.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: After Maximilien's fiancee Valentine is poisoned, Maximilien is heartbroken and only the Count's intervention prevents him from shooting himself by revealing it was he who saved his father from bankruptcy and suicide, extorting from Maximilien a solemn oath that he won't make any more suicide attempts for a month. Having taken him to his private island in the meantime, the Count finds that Maximilien is still willing to die, and gives him a spoonful of haschich, which he claims will kill him painlessly. After Maximilien takes it and wakes up, he bitterly readies to kill himself with a knife... before Valentine makes her presence known to him (the Count had helped her fake her death in order to continue his revenge against her father, he was perfectly willing to let her die before he learned how important she was to Maximilien).
  • In the Russian book The Poisoning, a girl tries to commit suicide with her lover by asking her pharmacist friend for sleeping pills. The pharmacist suspects something's up and instead gives her laxatives, leading to a nasty surprise for the two. (In real life this is a terrible idea. Overdosing on laxatives is likely to still be lethal, not to mention slow, painful, and humiliating.)

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     Live Action TV  

  • In an episode of Agent Carter SSR chief Dooley travels to Nuremberg to interrogate a Nazi imprisoned there and sentenced to be hanged. Dooley offers him a cyanide pill to die quicker and without the risk of mis-hanging if the Nazi spills about some classified information. A minute later, though, it turns out Dooley was lying; it was just a breath mint.

     Theatre  

  • In King Lear, the blinded Duke of Gloucester asks a mad beggar (actually his son Edgar in disguise) to lead him to the cliffs of Dover so he can jump to his death. Edgar leads him across level land, claiming it is the clifftop; after Gloucester has harmlessly "jumped," Edgar assumes another persona and tells Gloucester that he has been spared miraculously and that the person who led him to the cliff appeared to be an evil spirit.

     Western Animation  

  • Inverted in the Archer episode "Deadly Prep": Archer's Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up Ivy reveals he has terminal cancer, and asks Archer to kill him in a staged home invasion so he doesn't have to suffer or invalidate his life insurance by killing himself. Archer genuinely obliges, both because he's being paid and wants revenge, but it turns Ivy was faking. It was really a plan to trick Archer into killing his other former bully for sleeping with Ivy's wife before killing Archer as well.


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