I have never been so disgusted with anyone in my life as much as I am with this woman I read about in the news this morning. 91 year old entrepreneur Sharlotte Hydorn from San Diego, California runs a business that has annual revenues of up to $98,000. While on the outside it seems remarkable that a woman her age can single-handedly run a prosperous business, the nature of her business is what disgusts me. Hydorn specializes in selling suicide kits (which costs $60 and contains a clear plastic bag, a tube which is to be attached to a helium tank and a how-to book on suicide) to people across the globe, claiming that she wished something like it existed when her late husband was suffering from colon cancer and wished to end his life. She stated that, “death should be with loved ones beside you, holding your hand.” I personally have never had anyone close to me in a position where their physical health brought them to a state in which they wanted to die because they were experiencing too much physical pain due to cancer or whatever. So it’s hard for me to judge Hydorn for wishing something like this existed at the time of her husband’s struggles with battling cancer. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions. But does she seriously think that everyone should or will die with their loved ones? What about war, natural disasters, drunk drivers, plane crashes, murderers, life-threatening illnesses and sudden heart attacks due to our unhealthy diets and lifestyles these days? What fairytale is she living in to think that people still die with their loved ones by their side? Sure, maybe in some cases that still happens but in the real world death is never all sunshine and rainbows.
Furthermore, Hydorn crosses a fine line when she started selling these homemade suicide kits to vulnerable depressed people who want to end their lives—people who are not experiencing anything remotely close to what her late husband experienced. Even though she made the smart move to consult with a lawyer before starting her business (because she’s merely providing the tools for someone to commit suicide and not actually telling them to do anything nor is she present when it happens, its technically legal) she made an equally stupid move by not screening the people she sells her kits to, like for example 29 year old Nick Klonoski who was suffering from depression and recently found dead using one of these kits.
This whole story just reminds me of something similar that happened a few years ago at my university– people getting away with murder in a new form by making it look like suicide. Nadia Kajouji was a first year Carleton University student who jumped into the Rideau River in 2008 after being encouraged by former Minnesota nurse William Melchert-Dinkel (that’s right, the suicide happened in Canada but the guy responsible is in the USA, which makes matters even more complicated). This is probably one of the messiest cases I’ve ever read about because Melchert-Dinkel did everything over the internet to convince and teach Kajouji how to commit suicide, yet because all the information investigators used to trace the case to Melchert-Dinkel was on a family computer there is no proof as to who in that household was responsible (this guy is married with children of his own by the way, who had no idea what he was doing to this poor girl and other vulnerable depressed people in parts of the UK and USA). This case has been dragged out for so long to the point where the judge who will decide whether or not Melchert-Dinkel is innocent or guilty, will make the final decision on May 4th, 2011.
Although both of these examples are considered “assisted suicide”, they are very closely related to euthanasia which is also something that comes up quite often in feminist discourse. According to the CBC, “assisted suicide occurs when a person — typically someone suffering from an incurable illness or chronic intense pain — intentionally kills himself with the help of another individual. Assisted suicide differs from euthanasia, in which someone other than the patient ends the patient’s life as painlessly as possible.” Euthanasia can be legal (this is an ongoing debate here in Canada) whereas assisted suicide is illegal.
Like I said earlier, it’s not my place to judge someone who chooses to follow through with assisted suicide or euthanasia if they are for example, suffering from cancer to the point where they can’t eat, move or go to the bathroom on their own and rely solely on a machine to breathe for them. But when people like Sharlotte Hydown claim that “We don’t have control of other people” and make a profit from vulnerable and depressed people’s suicide, that’s where our authorities need to step in and take action.
For more info on the assisted suicide and euthanasia debate in Canada visit: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2009/02/09/f-assisted-suicide.html