Killing a spouse is not loving or compassionate

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

People Magazine published an article on August 1 written by Emily Palmer stating that David Hunter (76) who was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife Janice, on December 18, 2021, did so “out of love.”

The story of David and Janice Hunter will be used by the assisted suicide lobby to justify the concept of “compassionate homicide.”

David Hunter was convicted of manslaughter, meaning that the judge determined that it was not a pre-meditated murder, and sentenced him to two years in prison. He was then credited for time served and released based on serving 19 months in jail awaiting trial.

A previous article by Ryan Fahey published by the Mirror on May 10 reported that Hunter confessed to killing his “terminally ill” wife and hematologist Dr Ourania Seimeni said Janice had myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is not necessarily terminal. The doctor said that 30 per cent of cases of MDS lead to leukemia.

Fahey also reported that Hunter tried to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, but the charge of murder went forward to trial.

According to the accepted statement of facts, David Hunter killed his wife by asphyxiation and then attempted to cause his own death by consuming a large amount of pills after suffocating his wife but medical staff saved his life.

Research by Donna Cohen, a suicide researcher, and others proves that murder / suicide is rarely related to “compassionate” homicide.

When people read reports of a murder-suicide they will often ask the question, was this an Act of love, or desperation? Cohen who has researched this question tries to find answers. Cohan stated the following as quoted in a (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune article from March 2009:

That notion is common in murder-suicides, said Cohen, who has testified before Congress, written extensively and helped train families and physicians. She is a professor of aging and mental health at the University of South Florida and heads its Violence and Injury Prevention Program. 

“If they were consulted, families usually would try to stop it,” she said. “In fact, murder-suicide almost always is not an act of love. It’s an act of desperation.”

Cohen also recognizes that murder-suicide does not equate with assisted suicide:

Some people equate murder-suicide with assisted suicide and the right to control when you will die, Cohen said. “It usually is not the same. This is suicide and murder.”

I accept the idea that David Hunter was emotionally moved by his wife’s “wish to die” but I do not accept the concept it is loving or compassionate to kill her.

A loving and compassionate response would be to help her receive pain and symptom relief and to assure her that her life had meaning, purpose and value.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.