Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oregon House passes bill to prevent sale of suicide kits

| »
Live Or Let Die?

I suppose it was only bound to happen. Last month, I wrote about the interesting dilemma posed by an elderly Washington woman who was producing and selling “suicide kits” online, thus making a quick and painless exit available to anyone, including those not necessarily in a rational frame of mind for making such a critical decision.

Long story short: The reason the woman selling these kits wasn’t in jail was thanks to a loophole in Washington State law. And although Sharlotte is still safe from prosecution in her home state for the time being, this will apparently no longer be true in the near future, if the State of Oregon has its way and enacts a bill that would effectively make it illegal for anyone to sell such kits online, regardless of where they reside [links removed]:

SALEM -- The Oregon House voted 52-6 Monday to establish a new felony charge for knowingly assisting a suicide that targets the sale of “suicide kits.”

Senate Bill 376 was introduced after Nick Klonoski, 29, committed suicide using a “helium hood” he bought online from Sharlotte Hydorn, 91, of California through The GLADD Group, or Good Life And Dignified Death.

While Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide law requires people consult with a doctor, many ready-made kits, including the one purchased by Klonoski, do not require any kind of background check for compliance with state law.

“This is narrowly aimed at people selling kits to people, not the Oregon Death with Dignity Act,” Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, said, clarifying that the law does not apply to people who give away materials to commit suicide. “This bill is about people selling this for profit.”

The crime would be a class B felony, which would allow Oregon to bring charges against people outside of state borders and therefore include all online sales.

Some legislators were concerned that SB 376B could inadvertently be used to prosecute people who unknowingly sold an object intended to assist a suicide, but Rep. Matt Wand, R-Troutdale, said the bill’s language excluded that possibility.

“‘For the purpose of’: That’s a legal mental state that means the person knows the outcome and also intends the outcome,” Wand said. “It’s the intent that’s very important in this law.”

For the measure to become law, the Senate must approve House amendments to the bill and be signed by the governor.

I find it rather galling that a state could prosecute anyone residing in any other state for an act that violates a law proposed, enacted and enforced in that state alone. It seems to me that if they truly must make it a criminal offense to sell or possess such an item within state boundaries, they could simply forbid anyone from obtaining or selling it within their own borders, and perhaps (at the most) prohibit anyone out-of-state from making it available for sale or shipping to that particular state.

I’ve already written all about my thoughts concerning assisted suicide and the distribution of such kits online, so I’ll just end by saying that it’s at least a good sign that those behind this measure don’t seem to be targeting Oregon’s current assisted suicide law. People should have the chance to choose rationally what they want to do with their own lives, even if that means ending it. It’s absolutely none of the government’s business which choice they make.

(via @BreakingNews)