Mom Still Grieves for Son Lost to 'Choking Game'

A new Centers for Disease Control study says the "choking game" has killed 82 kids since 1995. Players in the so-called game cut off blood flow to their heads to get a high.

Dr. Patricia Russell, of Tacoma, Washington, believes her 13-year-old son, Colin, was one of them.

"The study has borne out that is real and these are not suicides," says Russell, a physician who hadn't heard of the practice before her son was found dead at home in 2005."He was in his closet, hanging from his closet rod," remembers Russel. "My first thought was: How could you hang yourself on something that was shorter than you were?"

Since then, Russell has learned a lot more about the choking game.She says the CDC study underestimates the breadth of the problem, because it was based solely on hospital records and media reports. "I have a database that is quite a bit larger than them, because I have lists that include parents that just came to advocacy groups and said, 'This is how my child died,'" Russel says. "They — or the coroner — didn't go to the media."

Russel cites another factor in the disparity between CDC numbers and her own: the cause of death, as stated by medical examiners, can't be overturned without a lawsuit.

She hopes to reduce choking-game fatalities with a three-pronged plan: "Raise awareness of the choking game, get kids to stop doing it because it's extremely dangerous, and then, ideally, start a discussion about some sort of improved process that would bridge this problem we have between the forensic community and the public-health community."

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