Euthanasia Coaster: A Roller Coaster Designed to Kill Riders

By: Dave Roos  | 
roller coaster in sunset
Death by roller coaster seems extreme for even the most intense adrenaline junkies. Brian Berman/Getty Images

If you only had months to live, would you rather wither away in a hospital bed or go out on the ride of your life? That's the concept behind the euthanasia coaster, a most extreme thrill ride.

A Lithuania-born engineer, artist and former amusement park employee, Julijonas Urbonas made headlines in 2010 with his provocative design for a euthanasia coaster, a roller coaster expressly designed to thrill and then kill its riders.


"Current euthanasia machines are medicalized, secularized, sterilized," said Urbonas in a video about his death coaster. "It's a euthanasia machine in the form of a roller coaster, engineered to — humanely, and with euphoria and pleasure — kill a human being."

Urbonas built the coaster's scale model, which at full size would send riders plummeting down a 1,640-foot (500-meter) near-vertical drop before entering the first of seven consecutive (and consecutively tighter) loops. The incredible speed of the drop coupled with the rapid inversions would subject riders to sustained 10 G-forces for a full minute. The excessive gravitational forces would rush blood to the extremities, starving the brain of oxygen. After losing consciousness, brain death would quickly follow.

"At first, what was designed was just the fatal falling trajectory with no purpose but one: to kill the rider pleasurably and elegantly," he told the publication Ladbible in 2021. "It was a sort of a designed thought experiment of what the ultimate roller coaster would be like and what possible usages it would be open to ... [like] an alternative death ritual appealing to both the individual and the mourning public."

Urbonas also told Ladbible that the hypothetical euthanasia machine was engineered with the help of scientists and experts from areas like aerodynamics. His intention was not to convince people that it would be built but rather that it could be built. "It makes the public immerse themselves in the narrative and forces them to think about such sensitive issues," he said.

Interestingly, this wasn't Urbonas' first roller coaster (although hopefully the first to intentionally kill someone). He worked as a ride designer at several Lithuanian amusement parks before moving to London to pursue a Ph.D. in design interactions.

A TikTok video explaining the euthanasia coaster went viral in 2021, sparking renewed interest. But as of the time of this publication, the euthanasia roller coaster remains just a concept.


Euthanasia Roller Coaster — the Movie

Designs for the euthanasia coaster made the rounds of European museums and galleries, which is where filmmaker Glenn Paton encountered the macabre thrill ride. Paton made a fictional short movie, "H Positive," about a man building a euthanasia coaster — one so powerful, it causes cerebral hypoxia, thus suffocating the brain but ensuring a euphoric death.

"It was unbelievable!" said Paton, who first saw a poster-size image of Urbonas' model coaster in a London gallery. "I'm quite into death, you see. I remember looking at my girlfriend and saying, 'This would be an amazing short film.'"


At the time, Paton was working as a TV director for advertising agencies, but he was looking to break into movies. The death coaster struck him as the perfect idea for a high-concept short film.

"H Positive," Paton's seven-minute film, is a disturbing (and fictional) portrait of a man who seemingly has everything — money, power, success — when he is confronted with a terminal diagnosis. Unwilling to relinquish control, even to death, he commissions the construction of an elaborate machine to take his life and seal his worldly fame.

"He's basically a complete a--hole," joked Paton, when we spoke to him in 2016. "He's doing it purely out of selfishness. He wants to become famous in a unique way.

"Maybe I'm extremely selfish as well," he continued. "I remember saying to my girlfriend at the art exhibit, 'If I ever had a prolonged terminal illness, I'd rather go out with a bang ... I'd rather people remember me being 'fun Glenn,' not this guy in the hospital slowly withering away."

In the meantime, the questions originally raised by Urbonas' radical coaster continue to resonate. Physician-assisted suicide remains illegal in all but six European countries and seven U.S. states. Even in those places, patients must be in the final stages of a terminal illness and prove that they are suffering unbearable pain.