You’d think that a woman over ninety would have better things to do than sit around all day sewing suicide kits. But hey, her business took in almost $100,000 last year.
Sharlotte Hydorn sells suicide kits at $60 a pop from her home in El Cajon, California. She considers herself on a “mission of compassion,” a kind person who helps others. She recalls her husband’s death from cancer some 35 years ago, and regrets that he went through prolonged treatments and died in a hospital instead of at home. Inquiring minds want to know: why didn’t he just refuse treatment and enter a home hospice? Or if his wife had medical authority, why didn’t she do that for him? But whatever, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it.
So Hydorn sits all day sewing together plastic bags and tubes so you can create your own do-it-yourself gas chamber. For 60 bucks, you don’t get your money’s worth. The suicide kit is a tacky mess, and it does not provide a dignified death, as advertised. You die wearing a plastic dry cleaning bag over your head.
Hydorn brags that she brings “eternal sleepiness” to people. Where’s the evidence for that? Even genius Shakespeare, who was not particularly religious, called death that “undiscovered Country, from whose bourn no traveler returns.” One of the time-honored ways psychiatrists still use to talk people out of suicide is to say things like, “Well, are you sure you want to risk it? After all, you can’t be sure where you’re going once you leave here …” But Hydorn was a science teacher, and as a scientist, she knows more than all of us.
One of the people who bought a Hydorn kit, shipped to him in a box decorated with butterflies, was a young man in his twenties, a recent college graduate. Nick Klonoski came from a nice family of five boys. His mom is a U.S. District Court Judge, his late father taught political science at the University of Oregon. Although he had battled depression for years, Nick was known for his mischievous smile and brilliant potential, and he certainly was not terminally ill. Over a thousand people came to his funeral.
His brother Jake told reporters, “They made money off my brother. They gave him the tools to take his own life without knowing him, without knowing anything about him. For $60, they blew his life apart. It breaks my heart.”
The Klonoski family lives in Oregon, one of three states in the USA that has legalized assisted suicide. Since it became legal there and thus sanctioned by adult society, the suicide rate of young people in that state has gone up.
Hydorn told reporters that she “feels sorry for Nick Klonoski’s mama, but I cannot take all the sadness of the world on my shoulders.”
Yet when it came to this one young man, Hydorn succeeded in making this world a sadder, less merciful place. And that was no mission of compassion.
Bjornstad, Randi. “Suicide kits sell death by mail,” The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, May 11, 2011.
Conley, Mikaela. “FBI raids home of suicide kit maker,” ABC News, “Health” topics, May 26, 2011.
Ertelt, Steven. “91-year-old grandma busted for suicide kit business,” LifeNews, May 27, 2011.
Marosi, Richard. “Woman selling suicide kits reignites right-to-die debate,” the Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2011.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call 1-800-SUICIDE now and get help. People care.
Update: In July 2011, the governor of Oregon, where doctor-assisted suicide is legal, signed a law prohibiting the sale of suicide kits in Oregon.