Russian Girls Found Guilty in Mercy Killing Case, Prompts Euthanasia Debate

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Russian Girls Found Guilty in Mercy Killing Case, Prompts Euthanasia Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 8, 2004

Moscow, Russia ( — Two Russian teenagers have been jailed in charges related to Russia’s first known case of euthanasia. They are accused of killing their neighbor after she made repeated requests for them to end her life.

Kristina Patrina, 17, and Marta Shkermanova, 14, strangled their 32-year-old neighbor, Natalia Barannikova in the southern Russian town of Volgodonsk. Barannikova was paralyzed from a February car crash and suffering from depression.

Afterwards, the teens took jewelry from Barannikova’s home and pawned it for just under $200 — actions that would later lead police to them.

An attorney for the teenage girls claims their action constituted a "mercy killing" to spare their neighbor from further suffering from her condition. He insisted Barannikova told the teens they could have the jewelry as a gift for ending her life.

He also claimed Barannikova spent six months trying to convince the girls to kill her.

However, a Russian court rejected the argument and has sentenced Patrina to five years in a corrective labor colony and Shkermanova to four and a half years.

Prosecutors were seeking a sentence about twice as long for each of the girls based on the charge that their actions were murder.

The case is sparking some debate in Russia about the legal status of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Some observers in the case say Barannikova repeatedly pleaded with family and friends to help her die. She claimed she was becoming a burden to her family and said she was in terrible pain. However, her husband was unwilling to kill her and was convinced she would recover from her injuries.

Barannikova’s husband called the teenagers murders and thieves.

Close friends of Barannikova discount the notion that she wanted to die. They say she was fighting to come back from the automobile accident and would never have gone through with euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Prosecutor Alexei Khilobok told the Moscow Times newspaper that the case has nothing to do with euthanasia.

"This is absolutely a different situation," Khilobok said by telephone from Rostov. "Sympathy with the victim was only one aspect. There was the issue of the gold, which they sold and then split the money. And with euthanasia, several criteria must be met, including a psychological evaluation of the patient."

Khilobok said Barannikova struggled with depression and often requested to die but would change her mind after her husband would talk to her and console her.

The girls, reported to police by the pawn broker at the store where they tried to sell the jewelry, show no remorse. They admitted to killing Barannikova.

Shkermanova said, "I feel like I did a good deed, like helping an old lady cross the road."

Patrina’s lawyer, Yury Badalyants, said he is considering appealing the ruling.

"Euthanasia is banned by our government, so the court had no choice but to classify my client’s actions as murder," he told Interfax.

Should the appeal go through it could have an effect on Russia’s laws.

Nikolai Khramov, head of the Russian branch of the Transnational Radical Party, says he is working with Russian lawmakers in the State Duma to pass a bill patterned after the euthanasia laws in the Netherlands and Belgium.