In recent years, the use of helium (party balloon gas) and a plastic hood has become the most popular way chosen by rational persons seeking a peaceful, relaxed and painless death in the face of unbearable and unrelievable suffering. It is relatively straightforward and, although Exit does not supply instructions on this blog or its website, anyone can work it out with a few minutes searching on the Internet. Sadly this also has meant that some individuals who are not hopelessly ill but temporarily emotionally disturbed have ended their lives with suicide in this manner. Any such death is deeply regrettable. Many people throw up their hands in despair at the availability of things such as the Gladd bag: but this overlooks the fact that once someone has made the decision to end his or her life, the method is simply a detail. Should we ban high cliffs, fast trains and cars, rope that can be used to hang oneself? While suicide prevention and intervention programmes are needed more than ever in a stressful world, it makes sense to target the causes and signs rather than a particular method.
An even more controversial area is when persons with severe mental illness end their lives by suicide. In countries where assisted suicide has been made possible by law, such cases are scrutinized and, as with physical illnesses, increased attention to appropriate palliative care, counselling or medication is easily made available. The laws allowing assisted suicide in this way can reduce the number of people taking their lives needlessly.
In Oregon, the law is very strict about who is and is not eligible, so some cases still remain underground and often beyond reach of support services. The death of the 29 year-old Nicholas Klonoski, who was suffering from severe depression, sparked off the ban on Gladd bags.
If you have placed an order for a Gladd bag in the last six weeks, you are unlikely to receive it. The FBI on 25 May 2011 shut down the Californian operation and seized all documents, orders, cheques, and computer hard-drive information. Fifteen or more boxed kits, awaiting despatch, were also seized from the local Post Office. The FBI have enough information to try to follow up any leads as they gather evidence possibly to prosecute Sharlotte Hydorn, the 91-year-old woman who ran GLADD as a service to humanity from her home.
Said journalist and American right-to-die activist, Derek Humphry, “Should the FBI call on you fishing for evidence against her, say nothing to them except in the presence of your lawyer. That is your right. Be firm.”
Humphry, along with Exit and Exit International, supplies information on suicide by means of helium and plastic hoods in his literature. (Note: Exit, Exit International, Final Exit Network, and the Gladd Group are all independent organisations with no formal connection to each other.)
Full TV news story
91-Year-Old Grandma Selling Suicide Kits (International Business Times)
L.A. Times cartoon
FBI visits woman who wrote support letter to Gladd (report & video)