"society cannot lose sight of the fact that a person's life was taken, often without their consent."
May 1, 2012
Last September, this blog discussed an article from a Pennsylvania newspaper that took a thoughtful, in-depth look at the tragically growing trend of elderly homicide/suicides. When that story was written, there had been three such cases in the state since June of that year.
The number is now up to at least 6 in the last year. Terrie Morgan-Besecker takes another in-depth look at elderly homicide/suicides and interviews a number of people about the larger picture (including me) to get beyond the 'mercy killing' theme that dominates the coverage of these tragedies.
An excerpt that includes a bit from my interview is below. From The Abington Journal, here is a sample of 'Loved to Death':
- But researchers who have studied murder-suicides among the elderly say they're troubled by society's tendency to view such deaths as mercy killings.
- "One of the concerns is you don't want to make it sound like it's a viable thing to do," said Sonia Salari, a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah." If we romanticize it, it makes it sound like it's OK."
- Statistics regarding the number of elderly murder-suicides committed each year are difficult to come by, as no agency specifically tracks that category of deaths, Salari said.
- In a 2005 study, Salari analyzed 225 intimate partner murder-suicides involving couples where either the victim or perpetrator was at least age 60. She gathered the data from news reports, police reports and obituaries published from 1999 to 2005.
- The research showed that in 55 percent of the cases, health issues involving either the victim or perpetrator were cited as a contributing factor. Approximately 7.5 percent of the victims had some sort of dementia.
- Compassion or murder?
- Salari said that, while she sympathizes with survivors who view the deaths as an act of compassion, society cannot lose sight of the fact that a person's life was taken, often without their consent.
- "Some people don't consider it domestic violence, but we need to see it as that," she said. "You have two deaths. Most of the time the victim is not in on the plan."
- Stephen Drake, a spokesman for Not Dead Yet, a nonprofit group that opposes assisted suicide laws, also expressed concern over how murder-suicides among the elderly are viewed.
- "These are acts usually of desperation, not compassion," he said. "These are people who are feeling depressed or overwhelmed. It's often a consequence of an emotional crisis."