2007: Isabella Blow

Final Attempt

May 7, 2007 – This day, famous English fashion editor Isabella Blow (48) died in hospital, one day after attempting suicide by drinking the poisonous weed killer Paraquat.

In life she had been especially known for always wearing very eccentric, extravagant hats.

Her closer friends knew that since long she had been suffering from bipolar disorder with severe depression episodes. Around 2005 she had been treated for her depressions with electroshocks, but soon after her doctors had to tell her she had ovarian cancer. This probably made her feel even more hopeless and suicidal than before.

In the last two years before her death, she attempted suicide six times:

  • by an overdose of sleeping pills;
  • by jumping from an overpass (breaking both her ankles);
  • by smashing her car into the rear end of a truck;
  • by taking horse tranquilizers;
  • by trying to drown herself in a lake;
  • by overdosing on medication.

When right after her 7th and fatal attempt with Paraquat she was found still alive by her sister, she had said: “I’m worried that I haven’t taken enough…”

Family and friends buried her with on the coffin, towering between the flowers, one of her hats: a black one designed by her favorite hat maker Philip Treacy, in the form of a sailing ship.
Later, her former husband Detmar Blow told how long ago she had already said: “I’m fighting depression and I can’t beat it.”


My own comment? Perhaps what I’m going to say now may offend some of you, but here I really am left with a fairly obvious question.

In a case like this, with 7 suicide attempts, wouldn’t it have saved her a lot of suffering if her first suicide attempt had been successful? My own answer is “Yes, it probably would” – and to be honest, that answer troubles me.


Paraquat, when ingested, is highly poisonous. It will cause liver, lung, heart, and kidney failures that can be deadly not just within a day but also after a month of horrible suffering.
The European Union, that in 2004 had allowed controlled use of Paraquat for agricultural weed killing, reverted that decision in 2007 (the same year as Isabella Blow’s death) because of the fear that any products from fields treated with Paraquat could bring a high risk of Parkinson’s disease.
In the UK , “restricted use” of this deadly poison is still allowed: “restricted” meaning you need a license for it.