EL CAJON (CBS/AP) — Sharlotte Hydorn was surprised when her doorbell rang at 7:30 a.m. and she heard the voices of men threatening to bust their way in.
The 91-year-old says she opened the door Wednesday and was greeted by about a dozen federal agents who were there to seize helium hood kits that Hydorn sells online and that people can use to kill themselves.
Hydorn is the owner and founder of The GLADD Group. The company’s kits — essentially a plastic bag and clear tubing — can be purchased through mail or telephone order for $60.
A loophole in California law makes selling the kits legal, but the ethical controversy remains heated. (For the record, what Hydorn does is not illegal because she is not present when the person takes their own life.)
Hydorn insists she is no Kervorkian-in-the-making. She told CBS2’s Sharon Tay last month that she just wants the terminally ill to be able to end it … on their terms. When they are ready.
In December, a 29-year-old Eugene, Ore., man used a kit he bought from Hydorn to asphyxiate himself with helium. Oregon was the first state where it is legal for terminally ill people to end their lives by taking lethal medication supplied by a doctor.
State lawmakers, appalled by a newspaper’s March report about Nick Klonoski’s death, are working on a bill that would make it a felony to sell or transfer such a suicide kit to Oregonians.
According to Hydorn, the federal agents knocked on her door in El Cajon, Calif., Wednesday morning and spent the next 10 hours packing up “boxes and boxes and boxes” of stuff and leaving a mess.
Hydorn said she is being accused of mail fraud and that she still had not read through the roughly 15-page search and seizure warrant signed by a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.
Special Agent Darrell Foxworth, of the FBI’s San Diego office, confirmed that agents were at Hydorn’s home Wednesday morning but said he could not comment on the contents of the warrant.
“We served a federal search warrant authorized by a federal judge in connection with a criminal matter,” Foxworth said. “It’s an ongoing investigation.”
In a phone interview 45 minutes after agents left her home, she said she was still shaken and eating ice cream to feel better.
“It was a new experience, and at my age, I’ve lived through enough things,” Hydorn said. She said she would be seeking legal counsel.
Hydorn said officials took about 20 suicide kits that were ready to mail out. She said officials also showed her a list of kits she put in the mail Tuesday and that they were intercepted at the post office.
Agents also seized Hydorn’s computers and sewing machine, and her correspondence with individuals at the Final Exit Network, a group that has 3,000 members nationwide and provides support to people seeking to end their lives.
The network has faced protracted legal battles in Arizona and Georgia about whether their support breaks state assisted-suicide laws.
Attorney Robert Rivas, the network’s general counsel, said the network is not breaking any laws and that its members strictly offer counseling and emotional support.
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