Selling Death Kits From A La Mesa Home

MT. HELIX -- A 91-year-old resident of La Mesa is getting national attention after a popular website profiled her home business, which includes packaging and distributing suicide kits that have been linked to recent deaths.

Sharlotte Hydorn sounds all of her 91 years as she answers her phone and is unapologetic and not the least bit defensive about her suddenly booming business.

"I believe I am doing something important here,'' Hydorn said Thursday. "I have the opportunity to change the way people think about dying in America. Just the way the gay people are changing the way we think about relationships. I have nothing to lose. My life is almost over, but I'm doing good here and I'm going to keep on doing it.''

Hydorn started distributing the kits from her Avocado Boulevard postal station about four years ago, she said, after meeting a man from Canada who had pioneered the effort. She had been engaged with hospice and the Hemlock Society, but quit those groups and went off on her own after redesigning the plastic bag used in the suicide kit.

The website The Daily Beast, popular nation-wide, published an extensive interview with Hydorn after the prominent suicide of the son of a federal judge in Oregon. She said sales of the kits had leveled off at 25 per month in recent years, but has now skyrocketed to more than 80 a month since the national attention.

"I'm just trying to survive here,'' she said Thursday. "The phone is ringing off the hook and I am just trying to remember who I told what to.''

Hydorn said the difficult death of her husband taught her to look at end of life issues differently and she sees herself as helping the dying by giving them an easy, painless way to end life without needless agony. The bag, she says, fits snuggly around the head and tubes feed helium, purchased in tanks from Target or a party store, in to end life quickly.

"They can say 'no' right up to the end,'' Hydorn said. "They have to turn it on.''

Hydorn said she knows many of the kits she sells are held by people as a precaution and may never be used. But she said she has had letters of thanks and reports from customers' families so she knows many are used.

Hydorn said in instances, like the Oregon case, when the kit is used by someone not in imminent threat of death, she still feels no remorse. "I'm sad for the family,'' she said. "But if he was going to do it anyway, this is better than slitting your wrist or jumping off a bridge. At least they found him in an eternal sleep and could let friends come see him at the funeral.''

Hydorn said she is in good health herself, but won't hesitate to use the device if she is facing a slow, painful end of life.

"If the situation is unbearable, I would use it, heaven's yes,'' she said.






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