Oregon House votes to outlaw ‘suicide kits’

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon House voted Monday to make it illegal to knowingly sell a product intended to help another person commit suicide, a move that targets companies selling so-called suicide kits that can be bought on the Internet.

The bill was introduced after a 29-year-old Eugene man took his own life with the help of a suicide kit he purchased online for $60. The measure would make it a felony to sell such devises in Oregon and would allow prosecutors to bring defendants into the state to face charges.

The House’s 52-6 vote Monday sends the bill back to the Senate, which unanimously approved it last month but must sign off on changes made in the House.

Suicide kits like the one used in Oregon contain a plastic bag that fits over the head, along with plastic tubing that can be attached to a tank of helium gas. They can be purchased from a California company by anyone at any time, without the consultation of a doctor.

The measure prohibits knowingly selling “any substance or object that is capable of causing death” to another person for the purpose of helping them commit suicide. Critics of the bill said they were concerned the definition was too broad and could be applied to people who innocently sell a device that ends up being used in a suicide.

“I think the annals of history will show us that darn near anything could fulfill that obligation,” said Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.

Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg, said he was concerned it would impact the gas stations he owns, because people have committed suicide using gasoline, but he voted for the bill.

The bill would not conflict with Oregon’s “Death with Dignity Act,” which allows physician-assisted suicide in certain circumstances. The state says 65 Oregonians took their lives under the law in 2010. Physician-assisted suicide is also legal in Washington and Montana.

Lawmakers considered applying the measure to anyone who provides materials to assist in a suicide — including those who did it for free — but decided against it, said Rep. Jeff Barker, a Democrat from Aloha who co-chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

“This was about people selling this for profit,” Barker said.

The kits can be purchased from The GLADD Group, or Good Life and Dignified Death. Sharlotte Hydorn, the 91-year-old owner, has told The Associated Press she isn’t responsible for who uses the kit and is only trying to help people in pain. She has been in business for three years and said she now sells up to 60 kits a month.

Last month, Hydorn said federal agents raided her El Cajon, Calif., home, seizing computers, her sewing machine, and boxes of suicide kits as evidence. Hydorn said she was being accused of mail fraud.

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