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