This past Friday, in Phoenix, Ariz., 86-year-old George Sanders was found guilty of manslaughter for the mercy killing of his wife who had suffered from multiple sclerosis since 1969.
Initially facing a charge of first-degree murder and a prison sentence of 12 years, Sanders was convicted of the lesser manslaughter charge and received two years of unsupervised probation.
After the original MS diagnosis, Mrs. Sanders' health continued to gradually decline. Confined to a wheelchair, George Sanders was her primary care giver. They reached an impasse when his own health started to decline and when Mrs. Sanders developed gangrene in her foot that could only be treated in a hospital.
But instead, insisting the pain was too much for her to bear, she begged her husband to kill her.
"I said, 'I can't do it honey,'" recalled Sanders as he took the stand. " "She says, 'Yes you can.'"
Sanders took his revolver and wrapped a towel around it to slow the bullet down once it passed through her head. "She says, 'Is this going to hurt?' and I said, 'You won't feel a thing,'" he said.
Cases like this regarding the elderly and deteriorating health will always spur memories of deceased Dr. Jack Kevorkian. A champion of patients' rights in choosing when they would like to die due to terminal illness, Kevorkian was imprisoned for his role in an assisted suicide of a terminally ill man.
Has society gotten to the point where the role of assisted suicide is finally seen as compassionate and in some cases, necessary? If the verdict in Arizona is any indication, we are at least getting closer.