[Right_to_die] Helium hood kits are the gentle way to go

World right-to-die news list (nonprofit) right-to-die at lists.opn.org
Thu Apr 19 09:52:12 PDT 2012


The San Diego Union Tribune printed 18 April 2012 this letter regarding 
the newspaper's Sunday article on Sharlotte Hydorn, the former maker of 
helium hood kits:

Letters: suicide kits, by Faye Girsh

The article on Sharlotte Hydorn's exit kits ("Angel of mercy or angel of
death?," April 15) mentioned six local suicides linked to these kits
presumably in 2010. Data presented in a thorough report on Suicide in 
San Diego County between 2000 and 2009 discuss the methods used by those 
3,368 individuals. Forty percent of those people used firearms to end 
their lives. The next most used method was hanging.

The right-to-die movement, of which Sharlotte Hydorn is a member, 
believes that people should be able to choose a peaceful, painless, 
dignified exit where loved ones can be present if they are determined to 
end their lives because of their suffering. The use of firearms and 
nooses do not qualify.

We consider them violent, lonely and not even certain ways to die, 
methods that often result in a worse outcome (like brain damage) than 
the person was escaping from.

We strongly believe in suicide prevention but just as strongly agree 
with the Oregon and Washington Death with Dignity laws that permit 
terminally ill patients are able to get medication from a doctor, after 
a 17-day waiting period, medical and possibly psychological examinations 
and other restrictions, at the end of which a doctor prescribes a drug, 
unavailable to the rest of us in other states, which the person may or 
may not administer to themselves.

Another model of achieving a peaceful death is through the national
organization, the Final Exit Network, which provides information and support
to members suffering from chronic or terminal illness. Because the
barbiturates are unavailable the network can provide information on the 
use of inert gas and an exit bag. These kits are not hard to assemble 
but Ms. Hydorn was able to provide comfortable bags of excellent 
quality. Her "victims" were grateful to be able to buy a kit and put in 
the closet as an insurance policy.

Taking them off the market will not lower the suicide rate but will
certainly insure that those people determined to end their lives will do 
so in a violent way that is traumatic to those who find and love them. 
When an organization works with a person who is considering ending his 
or her life there is conversation about the appropriateness of this 
behavior, the effect on loved ones, using humane methods and inviting 
loved ones to be there to say goodbye. Pushing people to use violent, 
uncertain methods alone will increase the trauma of suicide.

Ms. Hydorn was attempting to substitute a gentle method (incidentally, 
the actual kit would not, in itself, cause death) for the more violent 
means that people now use. Knowing that a peaceful (and legal) death is 
a possibility extends life. Desperate, lonely individuals can 
impulsively make a decision to end their lives with all the
legal means available (guns, knives, poisons, hanging, jumping) but it 
takes planning and delay to order a kit, or make the bag, and 
deliberation to figure out how to use it.

Definitely there should be more suicide prevention opportunities in San
Diego, especially as people's lives are getting harder. But, if people 
are determined to end their lives because their suffering has become 
unbearable, it is preferable to have a peaceful and dignified ending 
that takes planning rather than a violent, uncertain method that 
traumatizes loved ones and is done impulsively.

- Faye Girsh, President, Hemlock Society of San Diego
The pamphlet "How to make your own helium hood kit" is available at

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