A new Michigan Law Review article by Professor John Blume of Cornell Law School examines the relationship between “volunteering” for execution and suicide. Blume found that nearly 88% of all death row inmates who have “volunteered” for execution have struggled with mental illness and/or substance abuse. He writes that there is an especially strong link between “volunteerism” and mental illness. Of the “volunteer” executions he reviewed, 14 involved schizophrenia and several more reported delusions that may reflect schizophrenia. Depression and bipolar disorder accounted for at least 23 other cases, and post-traumatic stress disorder was present in another 10. At least 30 of those who “volunteered” for execution had previously attempted suicide. The article also notes that between 1977 and 2003, 85% of the 93 inmates who opted to allow their execution to proceed without exhausting all legal appeals were white males, despite the fact that white males make up only 45% of all death row inmates.

(J. Blume, “Killing the Willing: ‘Volunteers,’ Suicide and Competency,” 103 Michigan Law Review 939 (2005)). See Mental Illness, Time on Death Row and Law Review Articles.