Saturday, December 3, 2011

Helium Hood Seller Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud,0,3503245.story

San Diego-area suicide kit seller agrees to stop sale of devices

El Cajon woman came under scrutiny when one of her products was found on a dead 29-year-old in Oregon.

Reporting from San Diego -- A former schoolteacher who sold suicide kits that she once touted as leaving people "eternally sleepy" pleaded guilty Friday to a tax evasion charge and agreed to stop encouraging people to commit suicide.

Sharlotte Hydorn mailed more than 1,300 of the so-called helium hood suicide kits to people around the world, concealing the true nature of the product by describing the boxes as "orchid humidifiers" or "beauty bonnets" or "plastic rain hoods" on U.S. customs forms, according to federal prosecutors.

The $60 kits actually contained a clear plastic bag, medical grade tubing and a how-to diagram. A customer would place the bag over his head, connect the tubing from the bag to a helium tank and turn the valve. Death would be caused by helium asphyxiation.

Hydorn, 91, who was once an elementary school science teacher, marketed the product to terminally ill people as a compassionate alternative. She admitted to federal agents, however, that she didn't verify the physical condition, age or identity of the people who ordered her product.

She drew scrutiny last year after one of her devices was found over the head of a dead 29-year-old man from Eugene, Ore. In May, federal agents raided her home in El Cajon, east of San Diego, where she assembled the kits with her son.

Investigators determined that the kits had been sold to at least 50 people in San Diego County since 2007. In 2010, four San Diego residents — none of them terminally ill — committed suicide using the kits, according to prosecutors.

Hydorn said she became interested in assisted suicide after watching her once-healthy husband die after a long battle with colon cancer
30 years ago. He died in a hospital bed, and she regrets not being able to respect his wishes to die in the comfort of his home.

Her product, Hydorn said, ends lives peacefully, leaving people "eternally sleepy."

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 had failed to file federal income tax returns since 2007 and agreed to pay about $26,000 in outstanding taxes, prosecutors said. She faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Police Kick in Door in Confusion Over Suicide Kit

This door to a Springfield condominium was broken down by Springfield police after one of the residents purchased a suicide kit to aid a story being written for The Register-Guard earlier this year.

SPRINGFIELD — The teletype message came Tuesday from the FBI, and it sounded urgent: A Springfield man had purchased a mail-order suicide kit and could be in danger.

Springfield police responded immediately to the man’s Harlow Road home. They spoke with the condominium complex’s manager, who told officers that he had seen the man carry a bag into his house earlier in the day, police Sgt. Richard Jones said.

Officers knocked on the man’s front door, but received no response. After conferring with a police captain who urged them to force their way into the home in case the man needed immediate help, officers kicked in the front door, Jones said.

They soon learned the man was not home.

He was at work — in The Register-Guard’s newsroom. And he said he’s not at all suicidal.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Barbara Coombs Lee Renews Plea to Eliminate Oregon Reporting Consistent with Elder Abuse

Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, has published a blog on Huffington Post arguing that reporting for Oregon's assisted suicide act is no longer needed.[1]  This is the same claim that Compassion & Choices made in Montana before its proposed bill to legalize assisted suicide was defeated last February.

The reporting in question is consistent with elder abuse, i.e., of people with money.  This quote is from my memo against Compassion & Choices' bill, SB 167:

"Doctor reporting is . . . eliminated.1  The former Hemlock Society, Compassion & Choices, claims that this is because Oregon’s reporting system has “demonstrated the safety of the practice.”2  To the contrary, Oregon’s reports support that the claimed safety is speculative.  The reported statistics are also consistent with elder abuse.  No wonder Compassion & Choices wants the reporting system gone."

To view the entire memo, click here. 

* * *

[1]  Barbara Coombs Lee, "What We Know From Oregon's 'Death with Dignity' Experiment," Huffington Post, September 10, 2011 ("Bureaucratic paperwork has provided important data demonstrating the safety of aid in dying [assisted suicide] . . .").  To view her post, click here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Oregon Doctor Pitched Assisted-Suicide

"Assisted Suicide? 'I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses'”

Letter from Oregon resident, Kathryn Judson, Published in the Hawaii Free Press, February 15, 2011 (Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to view the original letter).

Dear Editor,

Hello from Oregon.

When my husband was seriously ill several years ago, I collapsed in a half-exhausted heap in a chair once I got him into the doctor's office, relieved that we were going to get badly needed help (or so I thought).

To my surprise and horror, during the exam I overheard the doctor giving my husband a sales pitch for assisted suicide. 'Think of what it will spare your wife, we need to think of her' he said, as a clincher.

Now, if the doctor had wanted to say 'I don't see any way I can help you, knowing what I know, and having the skills I have' that would have been one thing. If he'd wanted to opine that certain treatments weren't worth it as far as he could see, that would be one thing. But he was tempting my husband to commit suicide. And that is something different.

I was indignant that the doctor was not only trying to decide what was best for David, but also what was supposedly best for me (without even consulting me, no less).

We got a different doctor, and David lived another five years or so. But after that nightmare in the first doctor's office, and encounters with a 'death with dignity' inclined nurse, I was afraid to leave my husband alone again with doctors and nurses, for fear they'd morph from care providers to enemies, with no one around to stop them.

It's not a good thing, wondering who you can trust in a hospital or clinic. I hope you are spared this in Hawaii.


Kathryn Judson, Oregon