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Sunday, May 8, 2011

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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.

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