Consensual homicide

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Consensual homicide refers to a case when one person kills another, with the consent of the person being killed.


The more common form is assisted suicide, in which terminally ill people seek assistance from their doctors (or family members) to alleviate their suffering by ending their lives. This practice is legal in some jurisdictions, but remains controversial because of the legal, ethical and practical issues it raises. Dr. Jack Kevorkian was the most well-known advocate of this practice.[1] Another notable case is suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams, who claimed that patient Edith Alice Morrell—for whose murder he was tried in 1957—had wanted to die. He was controversially found not guilty but later suspected of murdering up to 163 of his patients.[2]

Attempts to legalize assisted suicide in various US states have generally failed in recent years. Washington state is a notable exception. Washington legalized assisted suicide with a law that took effect March 4, 2009, becoming the second state, after Oregon, to have done so. California, on the other hand, rejected the practice in 1992, 1999, 2005, 2006 and 2007.[3] Furthermore, Massachusetts had also rejected the practice in 2012. Opposition to assisted suicide legalization came from a wide range of organizations including the California Medical Association, disability rights organizations, faith-based organizations, and Latino and civil rights groups.

Exceptional cases

In 1996 a Maryland entrepreneur named Sharon Lopatka arranged for her own torture and strangulation over the Internet. In 2001, Armin Meiwes from Germany was found to have murdered and cannibalized a willing victim he found over the internet. These two cases attracted considerable media attention. Beyond their lurid sexual details, both cases introduce paradoxes about the respective responsibility of the parties, the legal differences between consensual homicide and suicide.[citation needed]

In 2005, Japan, Hiroshi Maeue lured three people via the internet with promises to assist in their suicides, and strangled them. They may have consented to their killings at first, but the method was different from his promise. Maeue had previous convictions and his motivation was clearly sexual.[4] He was regarded as a serial killer and was sentenced to death.[5]

Other types

  • Seppuku, the traditional Japanese method of suicide, in many cases works as consensual homicide. The assistant, called a kaishakunin, performs a mercy kill on the samurai committing suicide. If the assistant is not present, the ritual can devolve into a slow, messy death.

In popular culture

Consensual mutual homicide of a male-female couple is the theme of Pedro Almodóvar's movie Matador. The word "matador" is traditionally used for bullfighters (also a theme of the movie), but literally means "killer". Consensual homicide is also a theme in the 2009 novel Dark Places, written by Gillian Flynn.

See also


  1. ^ Betzold, Michel,"Appointment with Doctor Death" Troy, MI: Momentum Books 1996
  2. ^ Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
  3. ^ "Attempts to Legalize". 
  4. ^ "Suicide website murderer lived out his fantasies". Japan Today. 2005-08-24. Retrieved 2008-03-22. 
  5. ^ "Man gets death for murdering suicidal trio". The Japan Times. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
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