Killing the wounded - examples?

This is kind of a gruesome, morbid subject. You have been warned. And because I ramble, the questions I’m asking are bolded because they’re in the middle of the post and not at the end, like they should be in a properly worded passage. :wink:

In a thread about the 1972 Andes mountains plane crash, a scenario was posited about a pilot, mortally wounded, who asked a passenger to help him end his life… with the passenger refusing to do so. The pilot eventually died of his injuries the first night after the crash.

Not wishing to bring the debate into here, I was surprised at the number of people who claimed that they would have either killed the pilot themselves or given him the means to kill himself.

Surprised because, in my readings of disasters and other emergency scenarios, I don’t recall a single instance of this happening - where the more mobile survivors start “mercy killing” those whom they’ve decided weren’t going to make it, especially within the time frame one would reasonably expect to be rescued. However, my readings are not what one would call “exhaustive”, so perhaps I missed them.

I’m sure it’s happened in wartime. It wouldn’t surprise me that this happened among groups who had lost all hope of survival or rescue (say, Shackleton’s party, for example.) But I’ve never heard about such a thing, outside of fiction, occurring among those very recently impacted by a disaster event.

So… Are there examples where, in sudden disasters like plane crashes, train derailments, earthquakes, etc, the survivors start killing the mortally wounded? Is this common? Any studies on this phenomenon?


In the thread, much of the speculation has to do with the passenger’s Catholicism and how that may have affected his reasoning. I argued (thereby possibly killing the thread)that the chain of discussion was faulty as nobody has offered any proof that Catholics/Christians are less likely to commit mercy killings than non-Christians and that they were arguing from a premise that is definitely unproven.

But… maybe they’re right? Anybody have any statistics on mercy killings after disasters, preferably broken down by the killers religion? (I’m thinking “no way in hell can that information be found”, but the world might surprise me.)

Bolding etc. mine.

You start by asking about an injured person asking on his on behalf … and then wandering on to asking about people killing on someone else’s behalf. Not even close to the same scenario.

During the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 (and the horrible fire that followed):

ETA: Another incident from the San Francisco earthquake:

And yet another incident from the 1906 earthquake:

I have a lot of friends who went through Vietnam and the subject has come up. In the heat of battle when a hasty retreat left no option to carry the wounded I have heard second hand reports of soldiers putting their own down and not let them face torture, but I have heard more reports of the comrades attempting to carry out mortaly wounded and loosing their own life.

Again, this isn’t the place to debate this. This thread is for citations of real world examples of this phenomenon, regardless of reason. I don’t care why it happened, just if it happened.

We can debate scenarios in the thread I linked to.

When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When all you have is guns…

I think he was just trying to get clarification on your question. It wasn’t clear if you were asking about examples of survivors just going around sua sponte, killing those they felt were mortally woulded; or you were asking for examples of survivors begging for their own mercy killing which was then carried out.
It appears now that you are interested in either.

? Huh? How does that comment even begin to make sense?

Gotcha. And you’re right.

Apologies, purplehorseshoe if I sounded like an ass.

engineer_comp_geek, it looks to me like your first and third incidents might be two different accounts of the same event.

They may be, but I got the impression that one of them was a police officer and one wasn’t. Maybe it was a police officer who wasn’t in uniform or something though.

One thing to consider as to why the lack of recent cases:

These speed and efficiency of rescue get the mortally wounded to medical facilities, and modern pain meds removes the immediacy of the need.

That man rescued from the pancaked section of the Nimitz weeks after the 1989 SF quake is an example - without the hydraulic jacks, he could not have been extricated, and the same situation as in 1906 would have played out. As it was, he was in a hospital bed and reasonably comfortable when his kidneys gave up (his femurs were crushed = no new hemoglobin for weeks).
The issue of mercy killings is now almost always in a hospital setting. And courtrooms (rant about people who know better than family deleted)

Are you only interested in natural disasters?

Mercy is both a virtue and a kind of knife. But as usedtobe says, nowadays soldiers wounded in battle have a much beter chance than those from before there were antibiotics and explosion motors.

Yes, but take into account a soldier who suffers such grievous injuries that his friends shoot him anyway.
I am specifically thinking of a soldier who has the bottom half of his face and jaw shot away exposing everything from his nose to what used to be his ear, and everything from his top teeth down. And he is still alive, conscious, and aware of the extent of his injury.
Modern medicine may be able to keep him alive, but would he want to live?
Look into his eyes before you answer that question.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina there seems to have been talk of hospital staff debating euthanasia for patients who might not make it.

In 1900 when reconstruction options for that sort of injury were largely non-existant I could see an argument for mercy killing, or at least not stopping the soldier in question from killing himself.

Today, with the possibility of a face transplant, not so much. Assuming the injured guy can be evacuated relatively quickly.

I mentioned a “wartime exclusion” in the OP as I feel/think that this sort of action would be more common among people(s) who are surrounded by sudden death (and the possibility thereof) at all times. For instance, I am not surprised that one of the three examples brought to the thread in re: to the 1906 earthquake was initiated by a military man. It would not surprise me if that particular officer had to make the same decision in wartime prior in his career.

So, to clarify, what happens after disasters that occur among the general populace is the thrust of the question. And not just “natural” disasters, but man-made ones such as plane crashes, train crashes, fires, riots, dam bursts, etc.

Actually, it looks like they did more than talk about it, though a grand jury impaneled specifically to investigate this case [ur=]declined to indict the leading doctor.

If you want to go back 200 years, there was The Raft of the Medusa

150 people were shipwrecked on a raft. 12 days later only 15 of them were left alive. There were lots of drownings and suicides, but a whole bunch of folk were thrown overboard while still alive.