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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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. He was regarded as a serial killer and was sentenced to death.
In the evening of April 25th, 2012, a 25-year-old woman by the name of Jessica Hanley had a friend come over, Tashina Sutherland, to her boyfriend’s house in Surrey, British Columbia. Throughout the night, the two women drank alcohol and snorted cocaine excessively. By the end of the bender, the women decided to partake in a suicide pact. When the time came, Hanley began to have second thoughts. After realizing how upset this made Sutherland, she eventually complied by stabbing Sutherland 41 times throughout her body with a boning knife and a bayonet. Hanley would then place Sutherland’s body in the bathtub. While trying to think of ways to dispose of the body, Hanley decided to call her boyfriend and tell him what has transpired. He immediately returned home. Once he saw the body, he told Hanley to leave and then proceeded to call the police. After leaving her boyfriend’s house, Hanley decided to go to her father’s house, who was in walking distance. After telling her father what happened, he drove her to the police station where she turned herself in. Hanley was eventually charged with manslaughter and was sentenced with 7 years and 9 months in prison. During the trial, it was discovered that Sutherland had written a note to her family some time before her murder occurred, which said, “Look up at the sky and remember me on the day I died.” This is evidence that Sutherland had been planning on dying before she asked Hanley to agree to a suicide pact.
A twenty-six-year-old mother of three from Columbus, Ohio by the name of Chelsea Martinez was reported missing by her husband on August 1st, 2015. Not long after making the report, he discovered that she spent much of her time chatting on an online forum about Twilight on a website called the Experience Project. Amongst that discovery, Martinez’s husband found an unsettling conversation between Martinez and another user, who went by the alias of “DarkRyd3r”. She confided in the stranger by telling him that she had been wanting to die for a long time but was too scared to follow through with it herself. Eventually, they discussed the process in which he will kill her. Martinez would then thank him for finally putting her mind at peace. Her car was soon recovered by police in Faribault, Minnesota 700 miles away, an 11.5-hour drive, away from her home. The police discovered that she drove to a motel in Faribault to meet “DarkRyd3r”, who was found to be 39-year-old, Jason Nisbit. The next day, they left the motel separately and would meet again at a nearby park. Nisbit then tied her up, strangled her until she was unconscious, and slit the throat of Martinez with a 10-inch knife. After Martinez took her final breath, Nisbit buried her in a shallow grave partially. Nisbit was subsequently charged with second degree murder. Martinez’s family later remarked that she had a history of having suicidal thoughts and tendencies along with recurring mental health issues.
- 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.
- Betzold, Michel,"Appointment with Doctor Death" Troy, MI: Momentum Books 1996
- Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
- "Attempts to Legalize". patientsrightscouncil.org.
- "Suicide website murderer lived out his fantasies". Japan Today. 2005-08-24. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- "Man gets death for murdering suicidal trio". The Japan Times. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Grimminck, Robert. "10 Disturbing Cases of Consensual Homicide". ListVerse.com. ListVerse. Retrieved October 26, 2015.