New suicide kits for sale

Some Oregon legislators want a law to ban the sale of helium hoods, a new device produced by a two-person company in California to help people commit suicide. Three months ago, a 29-year-old man in Oregon killed himself using the mail-order device. The hood is a small white box that holds a brown paper packet with a clear plastic bag inside. The bag has an elasticised band sewn to the open end which can be slipped over the head and fits tightly around the neck. The box also has clear plastic tubing for hooking up tanks of helium.

Produced and distributed by the The Gladd Group, the helium hood kit has only one purpose: suicide. It costs $60, payable by cash or cheque. The Gladd Group has two employees and estimated annual sales of $98,000 – the price equivalent of 1,633 kits. Selling a suicide kit – combined with detailed instructions from another right-to-suicide organisaiton on where to buy it and how to use it – raises complex legal, emotional and ethical questions. However, while assisting another person’s suicide violates the law in most US states, definitions of aiding, encouraging, promoting or assisting are not legally precise.

No one has been prosecuted to date for selling such a suicide kit in the US. Many police agencies, district attorneys, legislators and medical examiners know little to nothing about the kits. However, Sen. Floyd Prozanski says he is drafting a bill to outlaw their sale. Derek Humphry, author of Final Exit, helpfully provided the mailing address and the price of the helium hood on his blog. ~ The Register-Guard, Mar 22; Assisted-Suicide Blog, Mar 21

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