El Cajon Woman's Suicide Kits Outlawed

Oregon man killed himself using kit made in El Cajon

By Michael Gehlken
|  Monday, Jun 13, 2011  |  Updated 4:58 PM PDT
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Suicide Kit Maker Refuses Responsibility in Oregon Man's Death

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East County Woman Dispenses Suicide Kits

Sharlotte Hydorn, 91, says she wants people to die in peace alongside their loved ones.

Suicide Kit Maker Refuses Responsibility in Oregon Man's Death

Sharlotte Hydorn, the El Cajon woman whose home was raided by federal agents earlier this week, talks with NBCSanDiego's Tony Shin and explains that she just wants to give terminally ill patients the chance to die at home peacefully.
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The Oregon House voted Monday to make it illegal to knowingly sell a product intended to help another person commit suicide, a move that targets companies selling so-called suicide kits that can be bought on the Internet.

Sharlotte Hydorn, a 91-year-old resident of unincorporated El Cajon and owner of Gladd Group, or Good Life and Dignified Death, sold a kit to a 29-year-old Eugene man who used it to commit suicide last December.

Hydorn told NBCSanDiego she did not assume responsibility for his death and was simply "trying to change the way people die" by making it less painful. Federal officers raided Hydorn's home in May as part of a mail fraud investigation, she said.

The $60 kits feature a plastic hood fitted by elastic over the head, with tubing that connects to a helium tank, which can be rented commercially.

"Your brain says, 'Oh, I think I'll take a nap now,' And that's the end of your awareness," Hydorn told NBCSanDiego. "And in about 20 minutes, you're gone. Your hands are cold and you are dead."

The measure would make it a felony to sell such devices in Oregon and would allow prosecutors to bring defendants into the state to face charges.

The House's 52-6 vote Monday sends the bill back to the Senate, which unanimously approved it last month but must sign off on changes made in the House.

The suicide kits can be purchased from Hydron by anyone at any time, without the consultation of a doctor.

The measure prohibits knowingly selling "any substance or object that is capable of causing death" to another person for the purpose of helping them commit suicide. Critics of the bill said they were concerned the definition was too broad and could be applied to people who innocently sell a device that ends up being used in a suicide.

"I think the annals of history will show us that darn near anything could fulfill that obligation," said Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, said he was concerned it would impact the gas stations he owns, because people have committed suicide using gasoline, but he voted for the bill.

The bill would not conflict with Oregon's "Death with Dignity Act," which allows physician-assisted suicide in certain circumstances. The state says 65 Oregonians took their lives under the law in 2010. Physician-assisted suicide is also legal in Washington and Montana.

Lawmakers considered applying the measure to anyone who provides materials to assist in a suicide — including those who did it for free — but decided against it, said Rep. Jeff Barker, a Democrat from Aloha who co-chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

"This was about people selling this for profit," Barker said.

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