A 91-year-old East County grandmother is getting national attention for making suicide kits. The woman, who we're calling 'Charlotte,' started making the kits after watching her husband die a slow, painful death from colon cancer.
"I'm doing what I can to improve the world," she told 10News. "There's a lot of heartache and difficulty here."
Charlotte makes the kits -- which cost buyers $60 -- by taking large plastic bags and sewing soft elastic bands around the opening. There is a slot in the bag for a plastic tube carrying helium gas to be inserted. Helium -- when inhaled in its pure form -- is deadly. Kit users are responsible for securing their own helium gas.
"If heaven is so wonderful, you know you'd naturally want to go there, wouldn't you?" said Charlotte.
Charlotte's story came to light because of the recent death of 29-year-old Nick Klonoski.
The Oregon man ordered one of Charlotte's kits and took his life in December 2010. Since then, his family has spoken out against Charlotte's business and now an Oregon lawmaker has put forward a bill to make selling the kits a felony in the state.
Charlotte, however, said caring for people in great pain is what motivates her to do what she does.
"People have to learn to be more caring for one another," she said. She said she understands the Klonoski family's pain, and even their criticism. But for others that offer stronger criticism, she doesn't hold back. When asked what she thinks when people say she's going to hell, she said, "If people think I'm going to go to hell, well then they can go to hell!"
Charlotte said her sales were nearly $100,000 last year. That's more than 1,600 suicide kits. The business is legal because of a loophole in California law but many question the ethics behind it.
Charlotte showed 10News the dozen or so orders she received just Thursday, each with heartbreaking messages from people claiming to be in terrible pain.
She said she does this work for those people and that she'll continue as long as the law allows.
"If you really want to help someone, help them to get counseling, help them to get treatment; don't help them to end their lives," said San Diegan Voneva Denham.
Denham, who watched 10News' story on Thursday night, said her mother and grandmother both took their own lives, and she attempted suicide in high school. She told 10News the story struck a chord.
"Because I know how it is to be at that point and feel like that's the only way to go, and to have someone to basically push someone over the ledge and offer this as an option is disgusting," said Denham.
A representative for local Rep. Duncan Hunter told 10News: "It's the responsibility of the state to limit the sale of certain items for the purpose of assisted suicides
The reality is that most states, including California, have not enacted the relevant laws to deal with this problem
Denham said she is pushing for a change and is calling on local lawmakers to make it illegal to sell the kits.
"Whatever it is that needs to happen in order to expedite the process of making this illegal, I'm definitely on board to do so," Denham told 10News.
10News spoke to several state lawmakers Friday who said they are now looking into the issue.
Copyright Do you have more information about this story? Click here to contact usCopyright 2011 by 10News.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.