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Omega (Westport). 2000-2001;42(1):83-9.

Older women and mercy killing.

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Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1876, USA.


Mercy killing is usually defined as intentional killing, often by family members or friends, with the stated intent to end perceived suffering. International evidence suggests that mercy killing typically involves an older man killing his ailing wife. In this study, we examined U.S. cases of mercy killing recorded by The Hemlock Society for the period 1960-1993. We found that the typical case involved an older woman being killed by a man, often her husband, with her poor health as the justification for the killing. A firearm was often used in these incidents. These patterns of mercy killing are consistent with patterns of homicide-suicide among older adults. Future research should seek to understand why women are typically the targets, and men the agents of mercy killing.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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