When I was in elementary school, I had a passion for forensic science. I remember, for a career shadowing day, members of my class with an interest in STEM fields were sent to demonstrations by professionals in these fields. I was in a group of students with a blood pathologist. While the details of the day are hazy at best, I can clearly recall one of the stories he told us.
A close friend of the pathologist’s had been a first responder to a well-being check. The neighbor of an elderly couple had heard a disturbance and become concerned; the couple was habitually quiet and kept to themselves. Upon arriving, his friend found a woman, the wife, bludgeoned on the floor. The elderly man claimed she had been in pain and was asking to be killed. The presenter claimed the man had been arrested but released later that day. He flippantly claimed that the man was too old for any punishment to be handed out effectively and “she had asked for it anyway, so what do you do?”
This was my first encounter with the concept of mercy killing. On its surface, mercy killing seems honorable. The possibility of sacrificing your freedom to provide your loved one with relief from the horrors of living with illness is almost heroic.
That is exactly where the problem with mercy killing starts.
The risk of losing your freedom due to mercy killing is minimal. In the state of Missouri, only one person with a motive pertaining to mercy murder was sentenced to any prison time. While the risk of committing murder is inherently incarceration, this risk is removed when it comes to mercy killing. This effectively ends any threat of retribution for the crime committed. While the emotional toll of murdering your spouse may be, and should be, near insufferable, the physical toll of prison time does nothing to deter this murder.
Social deterrents are also minimal. A majority of Americans from both parties support mercy killing. Even 41% of christians, whose belief system states suicide is a sin, support euthanasia. This is a frightening trend of accepting murder because the reason for murder is palatable to the public.
Those that perform mercy homicides receive little to no backlash from the public, and they are hailed as heroes for their devotion to their spouses. Even in my first impression of mercy killing, I immediately thought that there was little wrong with this practice. It was morbidly romantic, and a testament of how far someone would go for the one they loved. However, this is instead a testament of eroding devotion.
One of the basic vows of marriage is that you will stay with your spouse through illness, disease, defamation, or worse. Murdering your spouse does not keep with this basic vow. Instead of being a rock for your spouse; helping them through the darkest point of their life, being their murderer means that you become the one who shuts out all of their hope of restoration and healing. You take away their last breath, their last look at the light, their last chance to experience the beauties of the world around them. In fact, only 1 percent of these homicides occur as a direct pact between spouses.
These mercy killers are rejecting their promises to their spouses to be their protectors. Where is the heroism here? Where is the ability to be strong for your spouse that is struggling through so much pain and hurt? It is lost in medical vigilantism, as we deceive ourselves that this is a pure form of sacrificial love.
Let us not convince ourselves that this stems from love. This comes from desperation. The inability to continue to fight alongside your partner as they suffer. The inability to have the strength that a marriage requires from its conception. This situation can be hard to handle, but love should stand strong in the face of this suffering. It is the cries of desperation and pain, the pangs of depression in the healthy spouse’s head from hearing this pain, that drives them to become a mercy killer. Not devotion to helping a partner through their pain.
Yet a vast majority of Americans support this. We under-incarcerate mercy killers. We continue to not look under the veil of romance that shows the dark truth of these killings: this is not devotion to a partner. This is a rejection of principles of marriage.
This is murder.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Human Defense Initiative.