Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Suicide Kit Stirs Controversy

The Los Angeles Times published an article entitled Woman selling 'suicide kits' reignites right-to-die debate.  Below, a portion of the article is posted.  A prior blog referenced Switzerland's decision to allow non-citizens a place to end their lives.  There is no requirement for medical or psychological supervision in Switzerland.  And, there is no requisite medical or psychological supervision for these kits.


Reporting from El Cajon, Calif.

--  Sharlotte Hydorn peddles a product touted for its deadly simplicity. Inside her butterfly-decorated boxes are clear plastic bags and medical-grade tubing. A customer places the bag over his head, connects the tubing from the bag to a helium tank, turns the valve and breathes. The so-called suicide kit asphyxiates a customer within minutes.

Orders come from all over the world, from people young and old, depressed and terminally ill. "People commit suicide by jumping out of windows and buildings, and hanging themselves," said the 91-year-old former elementary school science teacher. Her product, she says, ends lives peacefully, leaving people "eternally sleepy."

In December, one of Hydorn's $60 devices was found over the head of a dead 29-year-old man from Eugene, Ore. His death triggered a wave of media attention that doubled her orders to 100 per month, but placed Hydorn under scrutiny from politicians and law enforcement agencies that culminated last week with a raid of her ranch-style home outside San Diego.

FBI agents seized dozens of boxes ready for shipment as part of an investigation into possible mail or wire fraud violations and whether Hydorn has violated a law prohibiting the sale of adulterated and mishandled medical devices. In Oregon, where assisted-suicide is legal under certain conditions, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would outlaw any device sold with the intent that another person use it to commit suicide.

Hydorn has been compared to Jack Kevorkian, the physician who went to prison in 1999 for assisting suicides. But the Dr. Death image doesn't fit this gregarious woman who dispenses advice on dying with a neighborly demeanor that is disarming.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, the tall and slender woman told reporters last week that hers is a mission of compassion. The "exit bags" end lives of suffering through humane means, she said. The federal investigation leaves her more bewildered than concerned, and she almost laughs at the prospect of going to prison.

"Do I look like a criminal?" Hydorn said, standing on her manicured front lawn.

Her critics would say yes. Even people who believe in assisted-suicide said she peddles the product without knowing the circumstances or identities of the buyers. While some suicidal people are rational, others are not, said Alan Berman, executive director of the American Assn. for Suicidology, a suicide-prevention organization.

Read the rest of the article here.

No comments: