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March 21, 2013

Hospice murder-suicide appears to be another 'mercy killing'

Daily Briefing

Pennsylvania police are investigating the murder-suicide of an 83-year-old hospice patient and her 86-year-old husband in what some hospital officials are calling a "mercy killing."

Shooting did not involve other patients

On Tuesday, the man shot his wife and then killed himself in a private room at a hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital, according to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. The shooting was confined to the room, and "no other patients or staff were placed in jeopardy," Martin said.

When asked if the shooting was a "mercy killing," a hospital vice president said that the "elderly gentleman could not bear to see his wife suffering, and the family, I believe, have observed that he just could not envision living without her."

A spokesperson for the Lehigh Valley Network reiterated that there were no witnesses or other patients in danger.

"This is a very tragic event, and our hearts go out to the family of the deceased and our Lehigh Valley Health Network colleagues who were involved," the spokesperson added.

Experts have warned that trend may continue

The shooting in Pennsylvania resembles similar "mercy killings" that have been reported around the nation.

An 85-year-old Arizona man will be sentenced next week for the killing of his 81-year-old wife, who had been suffering from multiple sclerosis. And after an Ohio man last summer shot and killed his wife, who was a stroke patient at an Akron hospital, experts warned that the trend could rise as life expectancies increase and mental health services get stretched thin (Associated Press/Arizona Republic, 3/19; Johnson, U.S. News/ABC News, 3/19; AP/CBS News, 3/19).

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