Madhya Pradesh doctor invents ‘suicide-proof’ ceiling fan

JABALPUR: When German engineer Philip H Diehi invented the ceiling fan in 1892, he had no clue that apart from providing comfort during summers, his invention will very often be put to use to commit suicide. But there could soon be a remedy.

A Madhya Pradesh cardiologist has invented a suicide-proof ceiling fan. R S Sharma, a professor in government medical college in Jabalpur, calls it “a simple contraption rigged up by using plain common sense”.

The inspiration came from a real life experience when a teenaged boy in his neighbourhood committed suicide after failing the Class XII examination. His inconsolable mother kept cursing the day she replaced the table fan with a ceiling fan in his room, Sharma recalled.

That set the doctor thinking – how to design a ceiling fan with built-in safety features so that it can’t be used as a tool of death. A week of hard thinking and several trips to the welders and mechanics later, Sharma had come up with a solution.

The device has a hollow metal tube inside the fan’s shaft to which the motor and blades are attached. Hinged to the shaft are four heavy springs designed to take an additional weight of 25 kg besides the motor and the blades. The moment the limit set for the optimum weight is exceeded, the springs uncoil, leading to a soft landing of the person without stretching of the neck or straining the noose, explained Sharma.

“Hanging causes dislocation of atlanto axial (upper cervical segment of the spinal cord) and compression on medulla oblongata (upper neck bones) that control vital centres of respiration and heart. But the victims are not aware of it. They normally die due to compression of carotid arteries (located on both sides of the neck which supply blood to the brain) and the resultant asphyxia. This death could be extremely painful and prolonged as the victim remains suspended in the air till the end comes,” he said.

“With the stretchable shaft, the risk of ‘feet- above- the-ground’ position is eliminated. The maximum harm could be a few bruises,” he said.