Does East County have its own Dr. Kevorkian?
That’s a question being asked after numerous online, broadcast and print reports about 91-year-old Sharlotte Hydorn, the rural El Cajon woman who operates a small business called the Gladd Group from a postal address on Avocado Boulevard.
And what exactly does the Gladd Group sell?
For only $60, Hydorn will mail you a package containing a plastic bag, medical tubing and an instruction guide for a lone purpose—to help someone commit suicide by encasing his or her head in the bag and filling it with helium, which is lethal in its pure form.
But Hydorn wants to dispel the notion that she is “selling death,” telling the San Diego Union-Tribune: “I’m not killing people. This is my chance to try to help them.”
She received national attention late last month when an exclusive interview with the Daily Beast online was published, which detailed Hydorn, her company and her experiences by which she began selling the kits–which was prompted by caring for her cancer-stricken husband, as he suffering agonizingly before dying slowly more than 30 years ago.
The Gladd Group had about $98,000 in sales last year, according to the article.
She told the Daily Beast that she wants to offer people—specifically those with terminal illnesses—a peaceful, painless end to their life, and that no one should have to suffer like her husband did.
With the kits, she also includes a copy of the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide For the Dying by Derek Humphry.
Much like Jack Kevorkian—an assisted-suicide physician known as “Dr. Death,” who spent eight years in prison after operating in the late 1990s—questions of ethics and morality arise about Hydorn’s money-making practice.
Critics say that despite seemingly noble intentions, it would be difficult for Hydorn to conduct a screening of each customer to determine whether were terminally ill, depressed or merely crying out for help.
Lawmakers are taking notice as well.
On Monday, the state Senate in Oregon voted to crack down on companies selling plastic hoods or other items that could aid in suicide.
State Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) sponsored the legislation after reading about the suicide of Nick Klonoski, whose mother and father are both U.S. district court judges. Klonoski killed himself more than four months ago using one of Hydorn’s kits, which he bought online.
Klonoski’s family said at a Senate hearing last month that he was not terminally ill.
Still, Hydorn is unapologetic in interviews.
“There’s no law I violated unless I sit by somebody who’s dying and say, ‘Use this and shut up,’ ’’ she told the Daily Beast.
In an interview with La Mesa Today, Hydorn said, “They can say ‘no’ right up to the end. They have to turn it on.’’
Although sometimes depicted as a La Mesa resident, Hydorn lives south of El Cajon in an unicorporated area, and uses a Rancho San Diego business address, the Union-Tribune said.
When asked if Hydorn, who told the paper she is still in good health, would reach a point when she would use the device herself, she said she wouldn’t hesitate.
“It’s a good product,” she said.