Elderly man allegedly shot sick wife to death in ‘‘mercy killing’’ at nursing home

Police photo of Roy Charles LairdRoy Charles Laird, 88, was arrested this week after allegedly shooting his 86-year-old wife, Clara Laird, in her nursing home. The couple’s daughter described the act as a “mercy killing”. Laird staunchly persisted in feeding and bathing his wife, Clara, 86, as dementia and crippling illness took away her ability to walk, sit up, feed herself or recognise visitors, according to the daughter, Kathy Palmateer, 68.

During a visit to the Country Villa Healthcare Center in Seal Beach, Calif., on Sunday, around a month before their 70th wedding anniversary, Laird allegedly decided to end his wife’s suffering by shooting her in the head with a .38-calibre revolver. Laird was found sitting in a chair near his wife’s body, and did not put up a fight when arrested by police. Friends of the couple say Laird was loyal and devoted to his wife, and had reluctantly placed her in the nursing home when she became too ill to care for herself. He spoon-fed her meals and visited her three times a day.

Alex Schadenberg, a regular blogger on euthanasia, takes an interesting perspective. He quotes a recent study entitled “Domestic Homicide and Homicide-Suicide: The Older Offender”, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. The study states that “lethal violence is often a result of long-term abusive behavior by a man against his female partner” and that “spousal violence often continues into old age”. The report continues, “it is important to note that the perpetrators of previous domestic violence cannot be established from available police reports. It should also be noted that, for various reasons, the prevalence of domestic violence is likely to be higher than reports indicate and that the apparent association with spousal homicide would therefore also be underreported.”

Schadenberg wrote, “When reading these very disturbing facts it becomes abundantly clear that when a spouse of many years murders their spouse, even when the spouse who died was ill, one should never conclude that the action was based on a "compassionate" homicide. It is better to speak about the sad reality of the story and not draw conclusions, especially conclusions that suggest that these acts would not occur if euthanasia or assisted suicide were legalized.” ~ New York Daily News, Nov 22; Los Angeles Times, Nov 22

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | elder abuse, euthanasia, mercy killing

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