• Christopher Tanner

Mercy Killing: Humane for animals; Immoral for humans

A couple weeks ago, one of my ducks was attacked by a stray dog. His spine was broken, a large portion of his back was torn off and it was clear, from the horrid wheezing and honking, that his right lung was punctured. It was all too clear that there was nothing I could do for him.


I had to quickly decide whether to let him lie suffering or to hasten the inevitable by breaking his neck. I chose the latter. I couldn’t bear to watch him continue suffering needlessly.

When I posted what happened on Facebook, I was assured I made the right choice by many people. No one objected in anyway with what I had done. I had done “the kindest thing possible.”

This got me thinking about people I’ve known in much the same position as the duck. The only real difference I can think of is: the humans I’ve known, in most cases, had the ability to communicate their desire to continue living or not. It’s painful to think about the times loved ones have told me they don’t want to live anymore. The pain is too much, and they want to go ahead and die. They know it is coming. They know they don’t have much longer. They don’t feel as if they are living anymore anyway, “…so please, make the pain stop…”

Why is it right for me to have killed the duck – without him being able to tell me that’s what he wanted – but not okay to end the misery of someone begging for it? Exactly what is it that makes the second immoral?

Many people believe assisted suicide is selfish. Selfish for who, though? Selfish of the person living their last days in agony? That seems to be how a large portion of people feel about it. It would be selfish of a person to end their life, when so many people who love them would lose them. The people left behind would be hurt. There would be a void in their life that the loved one once filled. The suffering must be dragged out as long as possible, because every minute of time with that person is owed to them somehow.


Who, again, is selfish? The dying person? No, of course not. It’s selfish of the loved ones to force suffering upon another, because they don’t want to lose them. The loss is inevitable. Yes, it is going to hurt. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, life will be different and it will be hard to move forward. How, though, does extending the suffering of another help that hurt? Does it?

I have to answer: No. It does not help the hurt. Losing someone you love is a pain that can’t be described – only felt. We’ve all felt it or will feel it in our lives. Unfortunately, dying is part of living. The kindest thing we can do for one another is minimize suffering when possible.

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