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Euthanasia Activist Grandma Gets Nailed by the IRSIf the federal government could nail Al Capone on tax charges, euthanasia device maker Sharlotte Hydorn, 92, didn't stand a chance.

Hydorn, of El Cajon, Calif., pleaded guilty last week in federal court to a charge of failing to file federal income tax returns since 2007 on $150,000 in earnings from various sources, including the profits from selling kits designed to help people end their lives.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Hydorn has agreed to pay approximately $26,000 in back taxes and to quit selling the devices. She could have faced up to one year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine, but was spared jail time in part because of her age, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie K. Pierson. Hydorn sold approximately 1,300 kits for $40 apiece, according to court records.

The retired school teacher was motivated to make the kits -- a plastic hood with tubing that could be attached to a tank of helium or other inert gas -- after watching her husband die a slow, painful death from colon cancer, according to a local media report. She blamed doctors for unnecessarily keeping him alive.

Hydorn made headlines in May when FBI agents raided her home after one of her customers, who suffered from depression and not a terminal illness, used her kit to asphyxiate himself in December 2010. At least six other deaths were linked to the kits, which Hydorn manufactured and sold under the name the "GLADD Group (Glorious Life And Dignified Death)," according to media reports.

"In her plea, Hydorn acknowledged that the helium hood kits were intended to be used by others to commit suicide," according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy. "She advised investigators that while she anticipated that her suicide kits would be used by the terminally ill, she took no steps to verify the physical condition, age, identity, or mental condition of the customer. Based upon her statements to investigators, it was clear that Hydorn, in fact, had no way of knowing if a purchaser was simply depressed or a minor acting without the consent or guidance of their parent."

Hydorn apparently was well known in pro-euthanasia circles. Activist Chris Docker, who has written a book on euthanasia and edits a blog on the subject, doesn't think that Hydorn's legal troubles will deter people who want to end their lives.

"Only a small percentage of people buying the bags actually used them," wrote Docker on the blog of his UK-based organization, EXIT. "Hydorn provided an option for people who, for instance, could not manage to assemble a bag with some elastic on account of arthritis in the hands. But the method became so popular among people with good reasons to take matters into their own hands -- people with unbearable and unrelievable suffering -- that it was also chosen as a suicide method by those experiencing emotional trauma or despair."

Jonathan Berr is a Motley Fool contributing writer.

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Ready for a new year and another bout with the Internal Revenue Service, deductions, exemptions, pens and pencils, calculators, receipts, 1040s, W-2s, accountants, Quicken, TurboTax, and more? If you're like most Americans, that laundry list of income tax jargon, paraphernalia, professionals and their fees is enough to set your head spinning -- and even if it isn't, the thought of paying Uncle Sam your annual dues will certainly do the trick.

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January 09 2012 at 8:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

God bless grandma! We ALL need to stop paying fed tax! Federalism is out of control and outside, way way outside, our constitutional limits, all three branches. We have a duty to stop enabling this institution! Got gold?

December 26 2011 at 11:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When my time comes i hope i die quickly before the "Blood Suckers" can Get Thier Hands on me!

December 10 2011 at 11:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

What about the MILLIONs on UNEMPLYMENT working and getting paid under the coutner so to speak? Hello? IRS? Anyone home?
Our oppressive tax system, the crazy whacko rules that the average guiy can not comply with because our laws are so messed up, scattered, IE if this then that but only if that and of course.......you know what IRS, I realize YOU don't make the laws but that arguement is alittle like the hangman asking for sympathy because he is merely acting out the desires of the court. Dearest IRS, you are a BIG part of the problem. Your absence in clearly demanding tax simplification across all walks of life is noted by all.
Our taxes are so screwed up that career progression for many IRS agents is to ultimately LEAVE the IRS and represent tax payers now that they know the tricks/traps the IRS likes to use and the loopholes our tax system creates by having such ridiculous rules/laws/enforcement and or lack thereof...... .
As long as our tax law adds up to a 10 foot stack of documents, then our elected officials and the IRS have failed in serving we as a people.

December 10 2011 at 7:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gainder2's comment

A flat tax would solve all those problems. It just makes too much sense for our government.

December 11 2011 at 10:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

She should request the Timothy Geithner EXCEPTION ! He didn't pay his TAXES & Earned Himself A Job Working In The OBAMA Adminstration! Not paying ones taxes is a way to advance in this country - Political Donations - Loopholes - ! The only problem is that you have to know the right people!

December 09 2011 at 8:04 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Despite the IRS issues (not paying taxes on products sold), this lady certainly has a moral right on her side- just as the good Doctor did (rest in peace) when he attempted to alleviate unbearable suffering. The governments "Holier than thou" position is moot at best. Their heavy-handedness is not moot at all. Doctors take an oath to "do no harm" as part of the Hippocratic oath and thus are prevented from assisting patients who are crying out to leave this earth. I believe, as a cancer sufferer myself, that people should have the right to end their lives and their suffering in dignity. The government has no right to prevent such suicide assistants although they do have a right to regulate it by insisting on certain basic procedures. Governemts- even our own- is not perfect. However, there needs to be some brave legislators (not easy to find) who can tackle this issue with new law which will regulate and protect those who seek- out of deep regard for the suffering of other- to alleviate that suffering beyond what the medical profession is so loathe to do (while collecting their usual large fees).
I applaud this woman for her stand and action on behalf of the suffering- albeit not her tax evasion. "Boo" on our courts and legislslators on this issue. It's a damn shame!

December 09 2011 at 2:33 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply