From Faye Girsh:
Sharlotte Hydorn died yesterday in her San Diego home, with hospice care, at age 94. Though I don’t know all the details, I wanted to pay her this tribute since she did so much to give people around the world the comfort and reassurance of a peaceful death by making and distributing her GLADD exit bags. GLADD = Good Life and Dignified Death.
They were sturdy, transparent, and comfortable and were equipped with the correct tubing and T-connection to be used with two tanks. People were happy to send her their $60 and receive a bag, discretely wrapped, in the mail. It is a comfort to me to have one in my closet.
Sharlotte was not the first to make these bags. As I recall they were first made in Canada (by another one of our heroes, Evelyn Martens, then by a Hemlock couple in Montana. I think Sharlotte got into the business about 5 years ago.
In May of 2011 29-year-old Nick Klonoski was found in his room with a GLADD bag over his head, connected to two tanks of helium. Klonoski suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome for years and was often depressed, his brother said. BUT — his mother is a federal judge in Oregon. The situation escalated till the Oregon legislature proposed a law making it a felony to sell “any substance or objects to another person knowing” that person plans to use it to kill themselves.
The investigation led to Sharlotte. A week later, at 7:30 AM, she was visited by several armed FBI agents who proceeded to spend the day at her modest home confiscating her files, with the names of the people she had sent Exit Bags to, checks that were laying around, her sewing machine, and, later, to the Post Office where they confiscated the small white boxes with a butterfly on them, waiting to be delivered to people who had sent her a check.
Later many of these people were visited by the FBI and local police in their cities and their countries, for “wellness checks” to make sure they were not suicidal. Many of these “authorities” got an earful about how these outspoken “victims” were in good health now and why they were so grateful to have their bag — in case things got bad and they wanted to make a graceful exit. Later some of these people got a letter saying they were entitled to “Victim Compensation!
The Final Exit Network found a good local lawyer for her and helped pay her legal fees, as did ERGO. In May 2012 she was sentenced in federal court for failing to submit tax returns and was fined $1000 and put on five years probation. I still don’t know what “crime” she committed. She gave a wonderful, articulate, courageous press conference outside of the court house.
Ironically, the next day Junior Seau, a beloved San Diego football hero, shot himself to death. If he had died a peaceful, rather than a violent death, there would have been great outrage, as there was in young Klonoski’s death. Instead, there was a sensible investigation into the causes of Seau’s death which led to examining brain injuries in football players.
Last year, as part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Hemlock Society of San Diego, Sharlotte was given an award for her humanitarian and courageous work in the fight for death with dignity. She is holding her certificate in the picture, looking more radiant and defiant than ever. She received a standing ovation from our members. At that time her health was not good. Since then it had declined and, to make matters worse, her adopted son who helped her in the GLADD business, died of cancer. She has been receiving hospice care at home for the past few months.
Let us hope that she died peacefully and with dignity — the way she wanted it for so many people around the world. Sharlotte, we salute you!
— Faye Girsh, Hemlock of San Diego CA