June 14, 2011

Oregon Bill Attempts To Outlaw ‘Suicide Kits’

The state of Oregon's House of Representatives are trying to outlaw suicide kits within the state.

The state's House of Representatives passed the bill on Monday to ban the products, like the do-it-yourself asphyxiation hood used by a man to kill himself late last year.

The next phase of the bill is for it to be considered in the state Senate, which passed similar legislation in May.

Sponsors say the bill would not impinge on a 1997 state law legalizing physician-assisted suicides for terminally ill individuals in Oregon.

The new bill was sparked by notoriety surrounding an elderly California woman who sells self-asphyxiation kits through a mail-order business, and the December suicide of one of her customers from Eugene, Oregon, 29-year-old Nicholas Klonoski.

Sharlotte Hydorn is a retired science teacher and great-grandmother who lives near San Diego.  She says her product is intended to help people with incurable, fatal illnesses end their lives with dignity in their own homes.

The kits consists of a plastic hood that closes around the neck and tubing that connects the hood to a tank of helium or other inert gas the patients supply themselves.

Critics fault Hydorn, 91, for not screening potential buyers of her kits, which they say she peddles indiscriminately to customers who may be emotionally fragile.

Klonoski's family said he suffered from depression but was otherwise healthy.

"We don't want somebody coming into Oregon making a profit off this kind of thing," Representative Jeff Barker, a Democrat and sponsor of the bill, told Reuters.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat and former emergency room physician, takes no position on the bill, according to his spokeswoman.

The bill would make creating suicide kits a felony, punishable up to 10 years in prison.

Hydorn has said sales of her product jumped sharply as a result of media attention stemming from Klonoski's death and reaction to it in Oregon.  She said much of her recent business has come from Oregon.

Hydorn became interested in assisted suicide after watching her husband suffer from metastatic colon cancer in 1977.  He died in the hospital instead of at home.