Oregon Man Kills Wife, Tests Assisted Suicide Law on Voluntary Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 6, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Oregon Man Kills Wife, Tests Assisted Suicide Law on Voluntary Euthanasia Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 6,
2008

Salem, OR (LifeNews.com) — An Oregon man has killed his disabled wife in a test of the one-of-a-kind state law that allows assisted suicide there. John Roberts says his wife Virginia was afflicted with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and he took her life to see if the state would allow him to get away with voluntary euthanasia, or so-called mercy killing.

Roberts’ family says John’s killing his wife was an act of compassion because she didn’t yet qualify for an assisted suicide under the state’s guidelines.

They say Virginia told John to take her life before he did the deed on Saturday.

"There is a story that makes this not just a murder," Greg Roberts, John Roberts’ brother, told the Oregonian newspaper. "It is my firm belief that this was a pact between the two of them, that she asked him to do this."

"And part of the reason why they chose this method rather than going down the assisted suicide route was that she was so proud that she didn’t want to let herself get into the condition she would need to be in before they’d be allowed," Greg Roberts added.

John Roberts alerted police to the killing and they found Virginia dead after a gunshot wound to the head. The newspaper indicates Roberts has been charged in the case and remains in jail without bail.

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethics watchdog and noted author and attorney, commented on the case and said this kind of case leads to the slippery slope from assisted suicide to euthanasia.

"This is the kind of case that led to the complete collapse of euthanasia guideline enforcement in the Netherlands," he said.

"This is the tide unleashed when we agree in law that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering," he added.

Smith predicted that Oregon wouldn’t allow Roberts to get off scot free and turn its assisted suicide law into one allowing euthanasia. At the same time, he said Roberts wouldn’t be punished severely.

‘If Mr. Roberts admits killing his wife for purposes of mercy at her request — he may be convicted of something like manslaughter, but will not be meaningfully punished," Smith explained.

The Oregonian indicates a grand jury is expected to review the case on Friday and that John Roberts will appear in court on Tuesday.