The Oregon Senate recently approved a bill to ban the sale of suicide kits. It is interesting that this occurred in the first state to legalize physician assisted suicide. The move was in response to the death of a 29-year-old Oregon man who suffered from depression related to problems with pain and fatigue and took his life using a helium hood suicide kit that he bought by mail order for $60. The helium hood method of suicide was developed and promoted by Derek Humphry and the kit was sold by a follower of Humphry to whom he refers business. Humphry, who lives in the same area in Oregon as the man who committed suicide, founded the Hemlock Society that was a primary force behind the passage of Oregon’s assisted suicide law.
Although the Oregon law he helped to pass limits physician assisted suicide to those with a terminal illness, Humphry made it clear in an interview with The Register-Guard, the local Eugene, Oregon newspaper, that limiting assisted suicide to those with a terminal illness is not important to him. Speaking of this particular case, Humphrey said, “It may be very sad and tragic, but if this man had ongoing health issues and had struggled with that, I wouldn’t criticize his decision. It was his right.”
The logic of assisted suicide is clear. If we accept that ending the life of the sufferer is an appropriate response to suffering and that a person who is suffering should be able to request assistance to end his or her life, then there is no reason to limit that assistance to those whose suffering we think is intolerable or who are terminal or who request the assistance from a physician. A mail order kit fits the logic just as well.