Mercy Kill

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"This is my final request", by mayumio

Alice is mortally wounded and in such pain that she can't stand it anymore, and her loved ones can't bear to watch her scream. There may be a Body Horror that nobody can figure out how to destroy, and Alice has been taken over to the point where she cannot even ask for death. Or Cold-Blooded Torture has left her horribly maimed and screaming incoherently. Or perhaps she's about to succumb to The Virus or The Corruption, and she wants to Die As Herself. Or some other Fate Worse Than Death. It may be that she could survive, but they have no access to medical care; or that Alice, if she lived, would be reduced to a shell of her former self. At any rate, Alice is dying in agony, the villain is gloating and nothing else can be done. The only merciful thing to do is end her pain as quickly as possible... so Bob gives Alice a Mercy Kill.

An Instant Death Bullet is likely, and justified in this situation: the killer has no difficulty getting to a position and attacking in a manner that would cause quick death. There is usually a moment when a glimmer of self-awareness allows Alice to show her gratitude through a tearful smile or the like—however implausibly. This is usually easier when the shooter is Cradling Their Kill.

When several people could do it, it is likely that her closest friend will insist on being the one to give the fatal blow; compare Dying Alone.

The Medic, if holding to Thou Shalt Not Kill, may make an exception for these.

Note that in Real Life, this practice is extremely controversial. In either case, it is usually an incredible Tear Jerker.

Not to be confused with Put Them All Out of My Misery.

Compare the combat-ending Coup De Grace, the villainous Thwarted Coup De Grace, and the assisted-suicide I Cannot Self-Terminate. A subtrope of Shoot the Dog, whose trope namer was a Mercy Kill.

As a Death Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Mercy Kill include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Fate/Zero, following Emiya Kiritsugu's Exact Words contract with Kayneth Archibald, he personally is forbidden from killing Archibald, but the contract neglected to include his partner, Maiya. Following this, the semi-immune to bullets and mildly surprised Archibald requires a mercy kill from Sabre.
  • In the anime Hellsing, when a person is turned into a zombie, there is no turning them back, so the Hellsing organization agrees that it's best to take them out quickly as a mercy kill.
  • Averted in Hunter X Hunter. Killua weants to mercy kill a bear cub that was mortally injured by a sniper, thinking that there's nothing they can do to for the baby, but when he's going straight for the kill Gon's aunt Mito extends her hand and blocks the lethal blow. She then convinces Killua to not do it, saying the cub hasn't given up on life, and Gon convinces Killua to heal the cub through Nen. They do; the baby is soon saved and returns to his family.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Noble Demon Scar does this to Nina Tucker, whose father had transmuted both her and her dog into a pitiful chimera.
    • In the manga, in order to escape from Gluttony's stomach, Ed has to use some of the souls attached onto Envy in order to open the gate. One of them even thanks Ed for being put out of his misery.
  • In Vinland Saga Askeladd tries as such for his fatally wounded friend Bjorn but he screws up the blow, missing the man's vitals. He rectifies this mistake shortly after a few last words between himself and Bjorn.
    • After another failed assault on London, a viking is walking through the camp with the wounded, asking if anyone needs a finishing blow. One warrior in the picture is even calling over to him to take up his kind offer.
  • After Lelouch accidentally forces princess Euphemia to go against everything she stood for and begin killing Japanese people under a geass, he exits his mecha to deliver the killing shot personally.
    • CC does this to Mao in an earlier episode after Mao had just been rendered unable to ever speak again, using the closest thing to an Instant Death Bullet ever seen in the series.
  • It's a sign she's all grown up when Witch Hunter Robin delivers a Mercy Kill to the witches being "processed" into Orbo.
  • Killy destroying the eternal cloning machine and it's sole occupant in Blame! could be viewed as a mercy kill.
  • Routinely done in Claymore when a titular Claymore exceeds their Yoki limit and transforms into a Youma. They are then typically beheaded by another Claymore out of mercy while some of their humanity is still in tact.
  • In King of Thorn}}, Ron decides to mercy kill the child Tim, believing there is no hope of rescue and that a quick death by bullet is better than being eaten by monsters or petrified by Medusa. Katherine isn't ready to give up hope, however, and just barely manages to prevent him from shooting the boy. Tim, asleep, doesn't even realize what almost happened.
  • Humongous Mecha example: In Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory, a Zeon soldier, disgusted at the sight of a Zaku painted white and used by the Federation, resolves to give it a "mercy killing".
  • In the anime version of Linebarrels of Iron, KATO-KIKAN member Nakajima Soubi, after his defeat at the hands of Hayase Kouichi, is revived by the real Big Bad and used as part of its invasion force of hive-minded man-machines. In a final act of clarity, during the actual invasion of Earth, he asks his former teammates to put him down while he retains the lest vestiges of his consciousness. They comply.
  • Towards the end of Chrono Crusade, Fiore offers to do this for Satella after she's badly wounded in a battle with each other (the alternative being to leave her to be killed by the feral demons they're surrounded by). Satella Takes a Third Option and uses her "jewel witch" powers to freeze them both in crystal.
  • This is one way to view Light's death in Death Note.
  • At the end of Black Butler's Circus of Fear arc, Ciel orders the destruction of the villain's lair, including all the surviving children whose minds have been broken.
  • At least Twice in Highschool of the Dead. The first time, Hisashi wasn't killed until after he turned (despite asking to be killed so he wouldn't), but the second time went over without a hitch.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyouko sacrifices herself to kill Sayaka after Sayaka turns into a witch.
    • In one of the attempts for Homura to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, she's forced to shoot Madoka before she can turn into a witch. Earlier that same timeline, Mami does this to Kyouko after realizing what's going to happen to them. She was going to do this to Madoka, Homura, and herself . The only reason she doesn't succeed is that Madoka does it to her first.
    • And actually, Madoka does this in a world wide scale in the Grand Finale. Her wish says that she wants witches to not exist anymore, so she spreads her power all over the world helping magical girls in need. In the case of Magical Girls whose Soul Gems are completely corrupted so they're about to become Witches, she can't save their lives, but at least she can make sure they'll die painlessly and peacefully while their energy is collected to save the world. (This includes Sayaka, who can pass on in peace now.) And in a sense, she also does this to herself: since she's destined to become the most powerful witch right after becoming a Puella Magi, Madoka ends up erasing herself outta existence when done, after a last talk with Homura.
  • In the anime series spinoff of Arc the Lad, the hero Elk encounters his long lost childhood friend, changed into a barely sentient womb for the terrible monsters the bad guys are using as mooks. He strangles her to end her suffering.
  • The truth behind Takiko Ohkuda aka Genbu no Miko's death in the original Fushigi Yuugi. She was believed to be lethally ill but her dad knew she was being devoured from the inside by Genbu, so to ease her suffer Mr. Ohkuda killed her and then himself. Note that the Takiko-centered manga Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden is still[when?] unfinished, so it might retcon this.
  • Attempted in Rosario + Vampire, where Tsukune became a ghoul. Thankfully, Moka was stopped before she could land the finisher.
  • Being composed of the Digimon that died during the Digivolution process, Apocalymon, the final antagonist of Digimon Adventure is in a constant state of pain and misery which drives him insane. While the Digidestined destroyed him to save both worlds, his death ends his misery.

Comic Books

  • Subverted in Preacher (Comic Book), where Jesse Custer, in his final confrontation with the Meat Man who is making out with a woman made of raw meat says that he has seen many f** ed up-things in his life. "If this is not a mercy killing, then I do not know what is."
    • The Meat Man was also already painfully dying after being struck by lightning.
  • In Elf Quest, Skywise ends his mortally-wounded wolf's suffering after its throat is torn open by another wolf.
  • In the Justice League of America, the second Commander Steel, Henry Heywood III, has most of his flesh burned away by an android built by Professor Ivo. His grandfather, the original Commander Steel, puts him on life support but euthanizes him after recognizing that he will never wake up.
  • Occurs in Strikeforce: Morituri where the heroes find four people who were secretly subjected to the Morituri Process and were accidentally turned into super-powered deformed monsters. The "mutants" were euthanized at their request.
  • After tagalong nobody Ugly John is mortally wounded by a Sentinel, Cyclops puts him out of his misery - at Wolverine's insistence.
  • In A History of Violence, the protagonist Joey finds his childhood friend Richie in the hands of the mob that they'd attacked and ripped off decades earlier. Richie had been caught early on and tortured the entire time. When Joey finds him, he is barely recognizable as human. Richie pleads for death, and Joey hesitantly grants it.
  • Questionably occurs near the end of the Punisher comic Man of Stone. Frank Castle comes across the paralyzed body of the Russian General Zakharov, who had been left to die in the blazing Afghanistan desert by a Smug Snake. Castle would have killed him regardless, but as Zakharov tells him to get on with it by saying the day was growing hotter, it arguably still fits this trope.
  • Doctor Strange was forced to kill his own mentor, the Ancient One, to prevent Shuma-Gorath from using his mind as a conduit to enter their world. Said mentor was dying anyway, and after death he became one with Eternity, sticking around as a spirit adviser to Strange (who was understandably upset over what he'd had to do).
  • In The Sandman, Morpheus' son Orpheus was torn apart by the Maenads and reduced to an Oracular Head. He begged his father to kill him, but Morpheus (who was a pretty cold-hearted jerk in the past, even more so than in the present) refused since he was offended that Orpheus had ignored his advice to let go of Eurydice. Two and a half thousand years later, Morpheus and Orpheus reconciled, and Morpheus finally gave Orpheus the death he wanted. This Mercy Kill dooms Morpheus, since killing his own son made him a viable target for the Furies. That, and he wanted to be punished for what he had done to Orpheus.
  • In the first story arc from the anthology series Marvel Fanfare, after being transformed into the Man-Spider Spider-Man begs Kazaar to kill to him while he still has some of his mind left. Kazaar complies, but in the end it's averted as Karl Lykos absorbs the mutated energy from him and turns him back to normal.

Fan Works

  • In Chapter Seventeen of Tiberium Wars, Brother-Captain Alvarez of the Black Hand is torn between engaging in a Last Stand to evacuate a small number of wounded troops, or saving his men by ordering a retreat and leaving the wounded to be captured by GDI, who he believes will torture and kill them. He instead chooses a third option: executing his own wounded to keep them out of GDI hands.
  • A Tear Jerker moment in Aeon Natum Engel: Two persons consider doing this to their dying 5-year old half-sister, neither of them is able do it, and break down in tears.
  • Happens to Brock and Ash during the course of Carnage Necropolis, after they're infected.
  • The narrator in After Case Report, a Sequel to "Case of the Missing Technology", admits to Josh that Melanie C was pleading for someone to end her life after seeing the results of what Monty had done to her. The narrator understood her pain and considered going through with it before thinking of Melanie's love ones. The narrator doesn't go through with it, asking herself What If...?.


  • Classic example: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, when Chief Bromden smothers McMurphy with a pillow after the latter is lobotomized.
  • Nathan Fillion is no stranger to the Mercy Kill. In Slither, he doesn't hesitate in delivering a headshot to a friend whom the mutated Rooker-beast has infected.
    • In Serenity, Mal shoots a man he had pushed off his hover-jeep who then gets dragged away by Reavers. Later, someone tells him "That was a piece of mercy and no mistake."
    • In the same film (minutes after the Mercy Kill described above), Jayne gets skewered in the leg by the Reavers, and is hanging off the back of the mule, prompting him to make Mal promise to shoot him if the Reavers take him. Mal quickly takes aim, prompting Jayne to shout, "Don't shoot me first!" before Mal shoots through the rope tying him to the Reaver ship instead.
  • Tragically used at the end of David Cronenberg's The Fly. The only thing Brundlefly can do is crawl miserably along the floor and point the end of the heroine's gun at its own head.
    • The hero of Fly II had no choice but to mercy kill a poor dog. Why? The condition of the dog was a result of an experiment that turned the dog inside out, thus deforming it both physically and psychologically.
  • In the film Starship Troopers, Lieutenant Rasczak shoots one of his men who is badly wounded and captured. He then tells his troops that he expects them to do the same for him if it is ever necessary. It is.
    • In the book when a man who went AWOL during basic training murdered a little girl and the rest of the recruits had to go and make sure he was hanged, because he was their man right or wrong. Rico begins to think whether or not they should try to cure him of his insanity, in his mind one would have to be crazy to kill a child for no reason, but then decided that living with the knowledge of what he did would be worse than death. So he kinda views hanging the guy as a mercy killing, or at least mercy for every other little girl he might have come in contact with.
  • This appears frequently in the Alien franchise, often by victims of facehuggers, although in a deleted scene from the first movie Ripley finds her crewmates (who have all been attacked and either killed or dragged off by the titular alien) cocooned to the walls of its lair and the line is uttered as a request for euthanasia rather than to prevent the alien from reproducing.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, when the Borg start assimilating crew members, it's Picard who takes it upon himself to vaporize, Tommy gun, or otherwise euthanize every affected crew member he can, because he knows what it's like. Of course, when he got turned, they certainly had to save him. Picard believed that the only reason it was possible for him to be rescued at all was because the Borg Collective deliberately left him some degree of autonomy, to act as an interlocutor, while he saw the redshirts as being unsavable.[1] Lily does call him out on this...

Picard: There was no way to save him!
Lily: You didn't even try!

He was not feeling merciful. He was feeling calm, and clear, and he knew that to climb down black beach might cost him more time than he had. Another Sith Lord approached....In the end, he was still Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he was still a Jedi, and he would not murder a helpless man. He would leave it to the will of the Force.

    • It would've taken him a second tops to Force-push Anakin into the lava as he walked away.
      • Perhaps part of him wanted Anakin to stuffer?
      • The most reasonable argument is "leave it to the will of the Force." Would Luke still have been able to defeat the Emperor if there was no Vader?
  • Double Subversion in the first Resident Evil movie. Rain gets infected by the zombie virus and tries to get the rest of the group to kill her before she turns, but they refuse and try to find a cure. Later on she becomes a zombie anyway and has to be killed.
  • Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans does one of these near the end.
  • The Sand Pebbles: Holman shoots Po-han to spare him being tortured to death.
  • According to the director, Harry Lime's death in The Third Man is one of these.
  • BJ does this to Tucker in the Dawn of the Dead remake.
  • An unusual modern film usage features at the climax of Quantum of Solace when Bond prepares to shoot Camille, as they are trapped in a burning building and she is reliving her childhood trauma of being trapped in a burning house. Subverted when he finds a way of escaping their situation.
  • Neil in Heat mercy kills one of his partners in crime after the guy has been tortured and is dying.
  • In Full Metal Jacket when the sniper girl has been shot and is begging the soldiers to shoot her again.
  • Pan's Labyrinth: the army's doctor, who is supposed to heal a captured rebel for another torture session, kills him instead.
  • In The Descent Sarah finds Beth with an open wound in her throat (caused by an ice-pick) and ends her pain by smashing her head with a rock rather than leaving her to the Crawlers. She is understandably reluctant to kill her friend, but tearfully relents after Beth begs her to do it.
  • Averted in Return of the Living Dead, when two survivors are cornered in an attic. Knowing these zombies can't be killed by bullets, the male survivor covertly aims his pistol at the back of his teenage companion's head, rather than let her be eaten alive by her own undead boyfriend. Averted because the place gets nuked before he can pull the trigger.
  • Parodied in Funny People, when Adam Sandler's character tells Seth Rogen's, who is working for him at the time, that he has an almost certainly fatal disease and asks him to shoot him, for a fee. When Rogen replies that he needs time to think about it, Sandler replies that he was just kidding and that Rogen is sick for even considering it. He DOES still have the deadly disease, though, so that part wasn't a joke.
    • Chevy Chase is offered a similar deal in Fletch, although the man who requests it doesn't really have bone cancer and is trying to use Chevy as an Unwitting Pawn.
  • In Saving Private Ryan, they give The Medic an overdose of his own morphine because he cannot survive his wounds. Inverted earlier in the movie, when an unnamed soldier orders the others not to mercy kill Germans who have been doused in flames.

Soldier: Don't shoot! Let them burn!

  • In Saw III, Amanda does this to Adam as shown in a flashback.
  • The French film I've Loved You So Long is about a woman who was sent to prison for murdering her son. In the end it is revealed that he had terminal cancer, and he got so sick and in pain that she killed him out of mercy, after spending one last day with him doing everything he loved.
  • In the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake Erin comes across a dying Andy in Leatherface's "workshop" she puts him out of his misery by stabbing him with a knife.
  • Nonhuman case in I Am Legend: After Neville's dog Sam is infected with the zombie virus, Neville chokes her to death. Borderline in that it's also self preservation, because Sam is already becoming hostile.
  • In Blade 2, one of the Blood Pack is bitten by a Reaper, and is quickly mutating into one of them. The others demand he be put out of his misery, so he's shot twice in the chest. However, he's mutated far enough that the silver bullets won't do the trick. Then a guy cuts half his head off, which also fails. Blade finally shoots a hole in the ceiling so sunlight will do the job.
  • Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture Show tries to brush off his murder of Eddie as a mercy killing. The audience may feel free to call him on this.
  • Done multiple times in The Wild Geese - the mercenaries don't have the time or resources to carry their incapacitated comrades, lest the Simbas arrive and overrun the whole company; given the Simbas' notorious reputation for brutality and butchery, a shot to the head is kinder than being captured.
  • In Ring 0: Birthday, when Akiko and Etsuko are cornered by Sadako with no chance of escape, Akiko shoots Etsuko through the head before turning the gun on herself.
  • In Land of the Dead, the protagonist shoots a woman who's being bitten in the neck by a zombie right between the eyes to spare her either being eaten alive or reanimating as a zombie.
  • In Black Death, Wolfstan gives one to Griff when he reveals that he's got the plague. Characters also discuss the use of misericorde at the battlefield.
    • Osmund does this to his lover Averill when he finds her insane and suffering. It is later revealed by Langiva that Averill's appearance of insanity was merely a temporary effect caused by drugs, rather than the result of being unnaturally brought back to life. This pushes Osmund over the edge.
  • In the film adaptation of The Whisperer In Darkness, Professor Wilmarth encounters the disembodied brain of Henry Akeley, who asks him to do this. In a subversion, Wilmarth cannot bring himself to carry out the request.
  • Happens in the horror film Train. Alex and Willy find their friends Sheldon and Todd locked in a torture car, both horribly mutilated. Sheldon can still walk, but Todd is barely alive, missing his eyes and unable to move. He begs his girlfriend Alex to finish him. When she tearfully refuses, Sheldon does it, cutting him with an axe.
  • This is part of Thanos' justification for "The Snap" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: he is convinced that the Universe is destined to plunge into a Malthusian nightmare of overpopulation and insufficient resources, and destroying half its population both guarantees sufficient resources for the remainder and spares those destroyed from what he sees as inevitable suffering and torment from starvation.


  • Literary/film example: Old Yeller is a classic example. Due to an earlier fight with a wolf, the dog develops rabies and has to be put down.
  • In Of Mice and Men, a dog is shot for being too old and 'no use to anyone'.
    • And later, Lennie is shot in the head just like the dog by George, because George considers that the fate that would await him at the hands of the other farmhands would be worse, and also because Lenny was basically too dangerous for society. The Movie makes it seem less like a Mercy Kill and more like a I'm Fed Up With You kill.
  • The above entry also applies to The Wars, only with a horse instead of a dog and the man was shot for refusing to help when he should have. Or something.
  • In the second Dexter book, on encountering a "yodeling potato" (a truly horrific Fate Worse Than Death), Doakes tries to shoot him. His fellow cops stop him.
    • This is one of very few instances in which Dexter and Doakes agree on something. Dexter considers Doakes' solution quite reasonable given the circumstances.
    • Has one moment in the series too, see Live Action tab.
  • The Hunger Games: being a dark series at least once, but Cato's death deserves special mention since it was after twenty hours of being ripped a part and was delivered by the main character. Did we mention she was there the entire time?
  • In Andre Norton's Star Guard, every Terran soldier carries a special dagger whose sole purpose is to "give Grace" to a direly wounded comrade. The main character uses it ... at the specific request of a severely burned man. Norton's books are often described as "juvenile fiction," apparently by people who didn't read scenes like this one.
  • Whenever a wounded soldier asks for mercy in A Song of Ice and Fire, they're usually referring to this kind of mercy.
    • Sandor Clegane comes to mind as a frequent dispenser of such mercy, and helpfully teaches little Arya where the heart is so that she can do it, too. Ultimately, he, wounded and feverish, ends up begging mercy of her. She refuses, saying that he doesn't deserve it.
    • Lord Manderly identifies the death of Little Walder as one of these. Because, had he lived, he would have grown up to be part of House Frey.
  • In the Nightside books, John Taylor is forced to kill his friend Razor Eddie in a possible future, because Eddie - as an immortal - is suffering through being used as an insect incubator. Over and over again, since the insects, the last surviving things on a ruined Earth, lay eggs in his flesh. Then the larvae hatch and eat their way out. Then they lay eggs in him again. The cycle has been repeated for eighty-three years.
    • Also in the Nightside series, Suzie Shooter invokes this trope for a woman who's in the process—the slow process—of being eaten piece by piece by demons.
  • In the Hawk & Fisher series, the titular cops use a magic-nullifying stone to end the anguish of several still-conscious dissection specimens, human and animal, in an evil sorcerer's house.
  • In The Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold, dying Lakewalkers are supposed to be killed by other Lakewalkers with special knives made from Lakewalker bones because that is the only way to create the magic knife needed to kill a malice. This is more like a Heroic Sacrifice in practice, as the killed Lakewalker is usually aware and willing to die for the cause.
    • Averted, however, in Bujold's Shards of Honor, where Cordelia refuses to allow Aral to mercy-kill one of her junior officers who is horribly and irreversibly brain-damaged. He is much confused, as this is standard procedure for his military and they're in a desperate situation even without the soldier as a liability. It turns out to be the right decision, however, since the officer's mother is glad to have him alive.
  • Discworld:
    • Night Watch: 'Just in case, and without any feeling of guilt, Vimes removed his knife, and... gave what help he could.'
    • In Witches Abroad, a wolf unable to bear living any longer as a Big Bad Wolf begs Granny Weatherwax for "an ending, now". She deputises the job to the conveniently available woodcutter and the wolf gets what it wanted. She then insists on burial.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death, Mkoll finds mutilated victims of the Blood Pact and Mercy Kills them. One is explicitly described as recognizing it and being grateful; Mkoll feels like a priest bestowing a final blessing. (Until he finds Gaunt. Him, he saves alive.)
    • In Ghostmaker, when a shuttle crash-landed in wilderness and two troopers are injured, Rawne says they should be "merciful." Gaunt refuses. Fortunately, rather than put four troopers to carrying them, they have Bragg carry them both. In the same novel, a soldier is impaled by debris from his vehicle and his teammate has to shoot him.
    • In Straight Silver, uninjured soldiers are screaming in agony because their psionically linked mounts are dead; the troops who come to rescue them end up mercy killing them.
    • In Traitor General, when it appears Feygor will not recover and carrying him costs them too much, Rawne attacks Gaunt, thinking he intends to leave him behind; Gaunt assures him that he always intended to be merciful. When Ezsrah's attempt to treat him causes Feygor to go into a frenzy, Rawne stops Gaunt on the grounds that he would do it himself; fortunately, when Rawne approaches with drawn gun, Feygor asks, coherently, what it is for.
  • In Dan Abnett's Xenos, Eisenhorn is running through a building full of people being prematurely roused from cryogenic sleep and dying. He explicitly says that he could have mercy killed one of them, but did not in order to prevent even more suffering - if he had, the local authorities would have buried him in inquireies and court cases for years while the Big Bad roamed free. He assures us he suffers Bad Dreams as a consequence.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Horus Rising, when Space Marines are invading a church to put down insurgents, one dying man begs Lokun for a blessing because the otherworld will shun him without it. Having Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions Loken refuses, and when the man asks for help again, kills him, regarding it as mercy.
    • In James Swallow's The Flight of the Eisenstein, Voyen says they should give it to Decius. Garro bitterly accuses him of wanting to destroyed the evidence of what the lodge (which he belonged to) had done.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Dead Sky Black Sun, when Uriel and Pasanius want to rescue some captives, the renegade Space Marine Vaanes shows them the prisoners and explains that freeing them would be pointless and death a mercy. They do not actually kill them but leave them to certain death. On the other hand, this foreshadows Vaanes's willingness to leave people behind. Later, Uriel looks at a Chaos fortress they destroyed and sees that all the victims of their experiments have been granted the Emperor's peace.
    • In The Killing Grounds, when the Lord of the Unfleshed only survived being possessed with the souls of the dead, and that with dreadful wounds, Uriel stays with him while he weeps, reassures him, and kills him quickly.
  • In Jo Graham's Black Ships, the narrator is forbidden from seeing blood shed. Nonetheless, when she and her companion Xandros come across a man whose insides are... not so inside anymore, she gives Xandros the go ahead, and he slits the man's throat.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones's Hexwood, Mordion has a very nasty example in his backstory—he's forced to kill his only remaining sibling, who's been horribly tortured, to spare her further pain. The torturer then informs Mordion then if he ever shows any reluctance in his job as assassin, the same thing will be done to his target; in a sense, everyone he kills from then on is a preemptive Mercy Killing.
  • In Stephen King's Needful Things, Ace Merrill does this to his partner, "Buster" Keeton, after he's shot in the stomach.
  • A variation occurs in various swashbuckling novels—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Refugees for instance—the hero and heroine find themselves facing a Fate Worse Than Death from which the heroine requests the hero to save her by shooting her (usually The Cavalry arrive just in time to prevent this). Usually takes place before the Fate Worse Than Death can occur and while the suicidee is still undamaged. Not I Cannot Self-Terminate as the emphasis is on dying by the hand of someone who loves you rather than being functionally unable to do it oneself.
  • In Dragonseye by Anne McCaffrey, part of the preparation for the return of Threadfall is a medical conference on treating Thread injuries. Some of the medics get into a discussion on the ethics of giving "mercy" to a Thread-injured patient.
  • In PC Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, Kencyr Lords and officers have a duty to walk the battlefield and cull the wounded, identifying those who should survive with dwar sleep and medical care and those who will die; if the latter cannot end their own lives, it is their duty to use a suicide dagger to dispatch them. Lords in particular feel a compulsion to aid those who are bound to them who are in distress.
  • In Earle Birney's poem "David", a mountain climber is injured badly, and is pushed off a cliff by his friend.
  • A particularly horrid (and ultimately futile) version takes place in the Ambrose Bierce story "The Coup de Grace".
  • E.C. Tubbs' Earl Dumarest had to do this more than once in the series. In one book, a man was taken by giant spiders which laid eggs in his flesh. Dumarest went into the spiders' nest to find him, and the narrative states, "There was no cure and only one mercy. Dumarest administered it..." Another character commented that the dead man was lucky because "'Sometimes that's what a friend is for--and he had one of the best.'"
  • In the first book of Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, Furies of Calderon, Fidelias does this. He snaps the neck of a girl that was going to be eaten alive by the Marat he and his cohorts were allied with.
  • In H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, a visitor to the blighted farm finds the ruined, half-disintegrated remains of Nahum's wife dying in the house. When he exits, nothing living is left behind him, and the narrative state that it would've been an atrocity to leave her alive.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Fingon almost kills his cousin Maedhros, who is being tortured and is out of reach; but at the last moment he is given a way to reach his cousin...who cannot be freed and again begs to be killed. Then Fingon has another idea.
  • In White Wing by Gordon Kendall, the eponymous fighter squadron is pretty much all that's left of the human race after Earth is destroyed. The other species don't like them much, especially the "barbaric" custom where a badly wounded pilot requests "the Mercy of the Wing" - the other fighters form up and solemnly blast him and his ship to atoms. Public opinion does change a bit by the end of the book, when two facts have come to light: humans are immune to the enemy's Brainwashing, and Earth was actually destroyed not by alien invaders but by humanity, in a Defensive Feint Trap that invoked the same principle of "Mercy" on a much larger scale.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Snape kills Dumbledore. Next book, it's revealed that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him, revealing that moment in Half-blood Prince to be euthanasia instead of crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
  • A recurring theme in The Gargoyle: Francesco asks his brother to do this for him when he is dying of the plague that killed his wife, by shooting an arrow made from their wedding rings into his heart. Later, the 13th-century version of Marianne does this for her husband when he is being slowly tortured to death.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, Bruce, the Starflyer Assassin, has a brief moment of clarity where he asks Gore to Mercy Kill him.

Bruce: Do it. Kill the alien.
Gore: Good for you, son.

  • In The Dresden Files book Changes Harry sacrifices Lloyd Slate, who had been tortured into insanity and a lot more by Mab. Harry, however, refuses to use this as an easy way out of the guilt, acknowledging that he's killing him for power, not out of mercy.
  • In The Illearth War by Stephen R. Donaldson, one of the Ranyhyn (sapient horses) stumbles into an acid swamp and suffers horrific and incurable burns. The lead stallion of the group, after evidently obtaining its permission, beats its head in with his forehooves to kill it instantly.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "The Shadow Kingdom", Kull and Brule promise each other this, in event of their being mortally wounded—because the Snakemen can enslave the souls of those they kill.
  • Being set in feudal Japan, Tales of the Otori is all over the various "a good death is better" tropes. Early the first book, Takeo climbs a castle wall to finish off members of a persecuted religious group who have been hung there to die. Later in the same book, he does the same for his adopted father, Shigeru.
  • In The Subtle Knife, Serafina Pekkala mercy kills a fellow witch who's being tortured for information by agents of the Magisterium about the prophecy regarding Lyra.
    • Later, in The Amber Spyglass, Lyra's group finds a badly injured frog on the road, missing several legs so it can only hop in a circle. The trope is then discussed: the Gallivespians suggest mercy killing the frog to spare it further pain, while Will counters that, in spite of everything, the frog might still prefer life to death. Since they can't ask the frog for its opinion, they end up leaving it alone.
  • In Metro 2033, Artyom is forced to kill Daniel, when the latter is ambushed in the library by a librarian and is fatally injured by being disemboweled by it. What makes it even worse is that the librarian's hand is feeling around in Daniel's stomach/torso, and mimicing both Artyom and Daniel whilst they talk.
  • Subverted in World War Z. A group of neighborhood protectors come under attack by what they think are zombies and one is bitten. He asks the others to kill him so he doesn't turn. Then one of them notices that the "zombie" bleeds red blood. He was just a human whose mind snapped.
    • Also, performing this "service" became standard practice for chaplains in the Russian armed forces, a task they embraced in order to avert bitten soldiers' church-condemned suicides.
  • ShadowClan's Medicine cats in Warrior Cats are taught to feed deathberries to terminally ill or dying cats, to prevent prolonged suffering.
  • In Dies the Fire, some of our heroes happen upon a group of Eaters (cannibals), some of whose victims are still alive but in horrible, and thankfully undescribed, condition. One of the protagonists asks them if they want to die, and since none of them are mentioned later, we can assume he kills them.
    • In a later book of the same series, a mortally wounded woman asks her commander to kill her quickly.
  • A potential motive for one of the murders in Sad Cypress. The accused, Elinor Carlisle, is suspected of her aunt's murder. The strongest possible motive is said aunt's huge inheritance, but another is the Mercy Kill; the aunt was an invalid who just had a second stroke and couldn't stand the thought of being helpless.
  • In Plague, the fourth book of the Gone series, Sam does this to Hunter to save him the slow, agonizing death that would come with the bugs eating him from the inside out. Dekka wants Sam to do the same for her, but he figures out a way to save her.
  • The title of Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? derives from the practice of shooting injured horses to put them out of their misery. After the novel's protagonist is arrested for shooting another character—who'd been Driven to Suicide, couldn't bring herself to pull the trigger, and begged him to do it for her—and the cops ask him why he did it, he recalls seeing his grandfather euthanize a horse in this manner as a boy, and utters the phrase.
  • In Antrax, Quentin Leah and Elven Hunter Tamis spend the entire book trying to perform one on their Mentor, Ard Patrinell, who has become one of Antrax's brain-controlled wronks, something that is acknowledged in-universe as a Fate Worse Than Death (the victim remains alive and aware but subjected to Antrax's will). Given that the wronk in question is an Implacable Man, this is not easy and ends horribly for all involved with Patrinell and Tamis both dying and Quentin completing his transformation into a Failure Knight.
  • In Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, the bear-cows kill their wounded. The humans come to suspect that it's a means of keeping them from being kept alive as prey.
  • In Someone Else's War, Ruth kills her baby daughter so she won't grow up to live the same life her mother did.
  • Played with in Jerry Pournelle's Janissaries, when a soldier from the late-20th-century U.S. is unwilling to even watch the killing of wounded enemy troops on another planet. A local girl concludes that he's a very cruel man who wishes slow, agonizing death on all his foes, even the lowest-ranking and comparatively innocent Mooks.

Live-Action TV

  • In Firefly, it is universally accepted that a quick death from a bullet or drug overdose is vastly preferable to what a Reaver would subject you to. It's also a common (but not universal) opinion that if you encounter someone who lived through a Reaver attack, they're likely better off dead rather than be allowed to go mad from what they saw.
  • At the end of Season 4 of Angel, Connor is so broken and destroyed by everything that's happened to him that he's not really himself anymore. As part of their deal to recruit Angel, Wolfram and Hart offer him the chance to give Connor his life back - a deal that apparently can only be activated by killing him as he currently exists.

Angel: I love you, Connor.
Connor: So what are you going to do now?
Angel: Prove it. *STAB*

    • In "Dead End", a season 2 episode, Lindsay tracks down the unwilling donor of his 'evil' new hand and, finding him and a number of other innocents locked up in a Wolfram & Hart body-part-harvesting factory, kills him, as well as any of the rest who are too crippled to live.
  • In the Japanese Tokusatsu Show Garo, the Monsters of the week are humans possessed by demonic entities called Horrors. Whenever a human is possessed by a Horror, they will feel excruciating pain. This makes almost every kill the main character makes a mercy kill.
  • On The Sopranos, Tony Soprano murders his cousin, Tony Blundetto, in order to save him from being tortured to death by Phil Leotardo. It comes back to bite Tony later, as Phil doesn't feel satisfied by this.
  • Al Swearengen does this for Reverend Smith in Deadwood, smothering him to save him from the lingering and painful death of a brain tumour.
  • In the first story of Stargate Atlantis, then-Major Sheppard does a Mercy Kill on his Colonel, who has just been fed on by a Wraith.
    • It's brought up again during the siege that the new military head doesn't believe it was a Mercy Kill until he experiences the feeding for himself. Before he's carted off with the wounded he tells Sheppard 'I wish you had been there for me.'
    • Happens again in Stargate Universe', when Col. Young puts Airman Riley out of his misery from being pinned under debris after a shuttle crash.
  • In Lost, Sawyer badly botches an attempted Mercy Kill: accidentally putting a bullet into the marshal's lung rather than his heart, leaving him to bleed slowly and painfully to death.
  • The Cybermen of Doctor Who reproduce by removing the flesh and altering the mind of other species, a nightmarish and irreversible process to which this trope is the universally accepted solution. When the Daleks adopted a similar strategy in "Revelation of the Daleks", the trope also appeared when one character mercy killed her own father who was partially mutated into a Dalek.
  • The nature and purpose of the kill isn't apparent at first, but in the first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica, Caprica Six's murder of a baby in the street could definitely be seen as a merciful death-the entire planet is about to get nuked to hell.
    • A more conventional example would be in a later episode where Six mercy killed another Six. The second Six had previously been drowned in a septic tank; a horrible death to be sure, but then had the added disadvantage of being resurrected with the memory of her terror, pain, and the look on her killers face. Cue months of horrendous psychological trauma, and finally, permanent death becomes available.
    • The pilot killed when they're on Cobol (the episode with the mother-frakker line): he's given an overdose of a painkiller as he's in agony and his survival is unlikely.
  • In one of the Forth Season episodes of Blackadder. General Melchett reveals he's quite fond of Mercy killing.

Gen. Melchett: Now George, you remember when I came down to visit you when you were a nipper, for your sixth birthday? You used to have a lovely little rabbit, beautiful little thing, do you remember?
Lt. George: Flossie.
Gen. Melchett: That's right, Flossie! Do you remember what happened to Flossie?
Lt. George: You shot him.
Gen. Melchett: That's right! It was the kindest thing to do after he'd been run over by that car.
Lt. George: By your car, sir.
Gen. Melchett: Yes, by my car. But that, too, was an act of mercy when you remember that that dog had been set on him.
Lt. George: Your dog, sir.
Gen. Melchett: Yes, yes, my dog. But what I'm trying to say, George, is that the state young Flossie was in after we'd scraped him off my front tyre, is very much the state that young Blackadder will be in now: if not very nearly dead, then very actually dead!

  • House. "Informed Consent" deals with an elderly patient who is slowly and painfully dying requesting the doctors to help him die. Chase argues that this is part of the job, House seems willing but needs to solve the puzzle. Once they diagnose him with a terminal illness, Cameron apparently does the Mercy Kill while the patient sleeps.
  • On Dark Angel, Max kills her brother Ben rather than allow him to be reclaimed by Manticore. The whole thing is an Homage to Of Mice and Men.
    • Averted earlier in the same series. Max and Zack are weighing up whether or not to bring Brin back to Manticore to save her from the progeria she is dying of (the 'not' option would, given the example above, more than likely have involved some level of this trope) but Brin begs them to take her back there because she doesn't want to die. She has a Face Heel Turn and is a full-tilt Manticore puppet soldier when next they meet, so it would have been better to go with the Mercy Kill.
  • In The Pacific, a Japanese soldier, having just seen his friends die all around him on Guadalcanal, stumbles out into the lake, really not up for this any more. The Americans, having just seen a Japanese soldier pretending to surrender only to kill two Marines with a grenade, start sniping him in the arms and legs for "sport". One of the main characters shoots him in the chest to end it.
  • Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard of NCIS, off-screen, was forced to work for the CIA/MI-6 during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, patching up people who had been tortured. So they could be tortured again. Eventually, he puts one guy out of his misery.
  • In one episode of Cold Case, a man suffocated the woman he loved who was being raped by a group of his drunken friends.
    • And in another, a young girl in The Fifties is smothered to death by her friend after she's completely broken (mentally, physically, etc.) in the mental hospital where her family locked her up.
  • Parodied in one episode of Mongrels where Nelson thinks he has rabies and asks Marion to kill him if he goes mad, unfortunately he still wants to kill him after it turns out he's not rabid
  • A non-lethal variety is featured on The Amazing Race. When a team gets so far behind that it would be impossible for them to catch up to the other teams, they are given a clue that sends them straight to the Pit Stop for their elimination. "Mercy Kill" is even the Fan Nickname for this clue.
  • Dexter faces himself with having to help an old friend put out of the misery of cancer. Although a killer by nature, he is reluctant to do it, but being in a time where his Code makes less sense in favor of helping his friends, he reluctantly agrees. See also the Literature entry.
  • In an episode of Third Watch, Bobby is asked to help his retired teacher stop hurting.
  • Played with on one episode of Reno 911!. While out on patrol, two of the officers are asked by a distraught man to Mercy Kill his dying dog. So, one officer takes his gun and shoots it. While the man is thanking them, a woman comes out of the house and screams when she sees the dog. It turns out the dog was hers and the man was actually a neighbor who wanted the dog to stop howling at night.
  • Parodied in M*A*S*H. Colonel Potter's jeep has been run over by an out of control tank and smashed to pieces. He walks up to it, pulls out his gun, and shoots it in the engine.
  • Lex claims this in the Smallville series finale when he kills his half-sister Tess, saying that he does it so that she doesn't end up like him. What he doesn't realize is that, as she tells him as she dies, he didn't need to worry about that- Clark had already saved her.
  • Neil Chung in the Fringe episode "Making Angels" uses Observer technology to read the future and an arcane poison to terminate those with especially bleak futures. In one case he slips up and causes a paralyzing accident he was trying to avert.
  • Done several times in The Walking Dead to zombies. Even though as a zombie the afflicted can't feel the pain or horror of their situation, the characters (especially Rick) often consider it a mercy kill to end their existence.
    • Also done by Dr. Edwin Jenner in the finale of Season 1. He considers continued living to be pointless and doomed to end in terror and agony, and though he eventually allows the other survivors the choice of leaving and continuing to fight for survival, he also offers anyone who stays an instant and painless death when the CDC building explodes—and at least one of them accepts this option.

Tabletop Games

  • The humans of Warhammer 40,000 refer to mercy kills as "The Emperor's Peace," and Space Marine Apothecaries carry a special pistol for just this purpose.
    • And then they chainsaw open the chest of the fallen to get at his genetic material. With the utmost respect, of course.
    • Similarly, but without the chainsaw, psykers carry what they call "Mercy Blades". When the Warp is trying to get into your head, a quick stab through the heart is vastly preferable.
  • Mage: The Ascension has the Euthanatos, an entire Splat of mages (player character mages, no less) who use this as their hat.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Amethyst wizards have a spell for Mercy Kills. It can be used on any enemy who has taken Critical Damage. This makes it very handy for dispatching that one beastman who has Tzeentch's own luck on the Critical Hit table and goes 3+ rounds without actually taking a Critical Hit that will kill him.
  • In the Ravenloft setting for Dungeons and Dragons, where lycanthropy is even more virulent and dangerous than in most D&D settings, this is the standard and expected outcome if an attempt to cure the affliction fails. As such a failure generally indicates an afflicted person is coming to like their condition, it's as much mercy for everyone else as for them.


  • Though it tends to get lost due to Values Dissonance, this is one reason Medea opts for Offing the Offspring when Jason marries someone else, since as a foreign-born woman her children would lose their Greek citizenship and inheritance once Jason remarried, and were very likely to be sold into slavery.

Video Games

  • One way of getting out of the tutorial in Project Zomboid is smothering your injured wife with a pillow.
  • In the Playstation 1 game Die Hard Trilogy, the Die Hard 2 segment is an FPS rail shooter. Shooting a character who's on fire is considered a "mercy kill" and worth points.
  • In Mass Effect, there is an optional scene where Shepard can perform a Mercy Kill on salarian troops taken over by Sovereign. There is also a section where you find a ship, empty with the crew apparently dead, aside from a man on life support, whose brain has been described as 'dead'. The crew wanted to put him off it, to which his biotic girlfriend Julia reacted to... violently. She will attack, and you may take him off the life support yourself. Your own squad members consider it the merciful thing to have done.
    • And knowing exactly how horrible Reaper indoctrination is, it's hard to disagree with the mercy kills.
    • On Noveria, the Rachni Queen asks you to do this to her own kids; the rachni are a telepathic species who need to be raised around others to develop properly, but the resident mad scientists took her kids from her before they were ready and the 'silence' has driven them insane. On the same planet, Matriarch Benezia declines medigel after you beat her, knowing that since she's been indoctrinated already living on would just involve being subjected to more of it.
    • If you let Gavin Archer keep David at the end of 2's Overlord DLC, Mass Effect 3 reveals that he eventually "ended his suffering".
  • In Breath of Fire IV, about 90% through the game, you finally find Princess Elina. However, she's been transformed into a horrific monster. She asks her beloved, Cray, to kill her. Even worse, you never get to punish the guy who did it to her.
  • In Saints Row 2, the main character does this to ease Carlos' pain after he's keelhauled by car by the Brotherhood.
  • In Gears of War 2, Dom is driven to do this for Maria once he finds her.
  • Half-Life 2. Headcrab zombies. The screams. For the love of God, just hurry up and throw that buzzsaw at them before they have to suffer another second...
  • A major element of Silent Hill 2, as James doing this to his terminally ill wife Mary is the event that causes the entire plot, which examines James' true motivation for doing so. Was it for his wife, to give her peace; or selfish, to get his life back?
    • Silent Hill Homecoming has this as an option for the first of two choices (or three, depending on which ending you're going for) that determine the ending you get. Alex's mother is strapped to a device and is obviously suffering. You are given the choice to either end her life or not. You can only get the good ending if you mercy kill her.
  • In one of the routes in the Tsukihime Visual Novel, Akiha is succumbing to her demon blood and begs Shiki to kill her if she loses control. When she does, if you don't keep your promise and keep her alive, you get a depressing "Normal Ending" where she's basically become a mindless, bloodsucking doll under Shiki's care for the rest of her "life". If you do kill her, you get a Bad End. No, to get a decent ending you have to Take a Third Option. Also, Shiki killing Satsuki after she became a murderous vampire, earlier on.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, just after you finally meet Belius, she gets corrupted by Estelle's Child of the Full Moon powers and you have to kill her.
  • In Eternal Darkness when Paul meets Anthony, he does what anyone would do when attacked by a hissing, moaning bastard-sword-wielding zombie and fights back. Afterward, however, he prays for his soul and receives a quick flashback of Anthony's time as the holder of the Tome of Eternal Darkness, making it obvious that this was a bit of a bonus.
  • In the game The Suffering, one can increase their Karma Meter by mercy killing a guard who has had most of his body eaten by rats inside of a room in an Asylum. Your wife will reassure you that it was "the right thing to do" if you do it.
  • One could argue that the defeat of the final boss in Shadow Hearts: From The New World counts, if you consider what Lady/Grace had become.
  • At one point in Unreal you encounter Nali who are being crucified by the Skaarj. While the game doesn't give you any means of saving them, there's a small consolation in that the game does let you perform a Mercy Kill on the poor guys.
  • Numerous bosses in World of Warcraft, particularly in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Several bosses use their last words to thank you.
  • The flashback nightmares Shadow from Final Fantasy VI suffers from reveal that he became The Stoic because his emotions caused him to chicken out of mercy killing a wounded friend.
  • BioShock (series) 2 features Gil Alexander, who before the onset of insanity and Body Horror from massive doses of ADAM recorded messages instructing whomever would find them on how to kill him. His current horrendous and quite insane incarnation, Alex the Great, will beg for his life, leaving it up to the player to decide how to deal with the situation.
    • Later on, Sinclair is turned into a Big Daddy against his will and is forced to obey Lamb's orders on impeding you from your objective by holding onto the necessary key, begging you to take him out while he's still sane over the radio.
  • Deus Ex: If you tell DeBeers that Everrett has no intention of treating his illness, he commands you to deactivate his life support.
  • Far Cry 2 allows you to put down a mortally wounded assisting character, if you let him/her get injured enough times. Or you just feel like it.
  • In Duke Nukem 3D, the babes the aliens have abducted and incorporated into some kind of alien personal holding cell (most likely complete with Naughty Tentacles) beg for Duke to kill them.
  • In God of War 2, Kratos comes upon the Titan Prometheus, who as per Greek mythology is chained to a rock with an eagle ripping out his organs every day (which grow back every night, meaning endless torment). Kratos mercy-kills him by dropping him into the Fire of Olympus, earning the Rage of the Titans power-up.
    • He later does this to his own mother, after breaking a pact causes her to mutate into a grotesque, and obviously in pain monster.
  • The Metal Gear Solid series features this as a device at least twice. In "Metal Gear Solid", Solid Snake kills Sniper Wolf after she is badly wounded in a battle with him. In "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater", the player is forced to initiate the mercy kill of The Boss, making it a Player Punch. Both of these characters beg to be killed though the trope description precludes this, but many of the other examples here are similar.
  • This is the ultimate fate of The Mother in La-Mulana, at the hands of the Player Character.
  • In Halo, when the Master Chief finds Captain Keyes infected by the Flood, he chooses to give him a dignified death by punching his face in, which also allows him to get the implants out of Keyes' skull. In this case Keyes had already become assimilated, so killing him was basically the same as killing a human combat form at that point, and the Flood were going to use his knowledge to pilot a Covenant ship off of Halo and spread to other worlds.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, when the Jedi Exile and Darth Sion have their final showdown, Sion (who is her Stalker with a Crush) says that killing the Exile with his lightsaber is nothing compared to what Darth Traya is planning to do to her, so he'll put her out of her misery now to spare her from that.
    • Also part of Atton's backstory. he was a Sith torturer and "working" on a female Jedi. The Jedi revealed to him that he was Force-sensitive, and gave him a glimpse of the Force. Atton freaked out and realized that he couldn't save her, so he either choked her to death or snapped her neck, then ran like hell from the Sith.
  • Mentioned in Homeworld: Cataclysm; certain large ships are immune to takeover by The Corruption, taking severe damage instead. The manual tells us that this is achieved by dumping high-temperature plasma into the afflicted sections of the ship and then opening an airlock. Not a pure Mercy Kill in that it's necessary to save the rest of the crew, but the crew members about to be ripped apart by flesh-eating nanotech and used to make network cabling would undoubtedly see it that way.
  • In Assassin's Creed II'' Ezio does this to Jacopo de'Pazzi after Rodrigo Borgia and another Templar fatally wound him as part of You Have Failed Me.... He later also does this to Savonarola, to spare him burning to death.
  • Team Fortress 2 - Played for Black Comedy in one of the Scout's domination lines directed at the Sniper.

It was a mercy killing, ya live in a... camper van!

  • In Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn you do this to a fellow prisoner in Irenicus' dungeon/laboratory. The poor fellow is being kept alive in a special tank against his will and has died and been brought back countless times. He begs you to kill him by removing the energy cell that powers his life support, which is convenient for you since you need that cell to power a different device.
  • As shown in the page pic, the Left 4 Dead online comic showed this as part of Zoey's backstory - her mother turned during a family dinner, biting Zoey's father before being put down. Since Zoey and her father had watched the same zombie movies, they knew what had to come next. Tragically, the same comic later revealed that the genetic immunity to the zombie plague is passed down on the father's side, meaning that the mercy kill was probably unnecessary.
  • In Fallout 3, you encounter the playthings of Dr. Stanislaus Braun. The karmically good end of the quest is to activate a failsafe that kills his victims permanently and traps Braun forever all alone in his virtual world
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Boone tracks Carla and her kidnappers to a slave camp, where he realizes rescue would be impossible. Rather than subject her and their unborn child to a life of rape and beatings, he decides to shoot her.
    • You can also find amputated and mangled troopers in the No Man's Land between Nelson and Camp Forlorn Hope, frag mines set beneath their bodies. They beg you to kill them.
  • After shelling North Korean troops with white phosphorus mortar rounds in Home Front, you have the option of shooting the burning soldiers to earn a 'mercy' achievement (there's another achievement for just letting them burn).
  • Kerkan from Sekien no Inganock is a serial killer who believes everyone is eligible for a mercy kill, but tends to only pick the truly hopeless.
  • In Fate/stay night's Heaven's Feel route, Shirou is forced to do this to Saber after she is hit by The Corruption and turned into Saber Alter. Especially bad, as Saber had been a symbol of purity throughout the game, and had been your primary love interest in the first route, as well as a possible love interest in the second route.
  • In Dragon Age the prophet Andraste was condemned to be burned at the stake after she was betrayed by her husband to the Tevinter Imperium. The Tevinter Archon Hessarian who ordered her execution felt pangs of guilt and compassion at the last minute and impaled Andraste to spare her the pain of burning to death. Afterwards he converted to the Chant of Light and helped spread it over Thedas. Replicas of his sword are called "Blades of Mercy" and are considered gifts of great honor in the Imperium.
    • The first game, while helping the Dalish with their werewolf problem, the Warden runs into a Dalish-turned werewolf who gives them her scarf, asks them to deliver it to her husband, and kill her. Doing so gains approval with compassionate party member Leliana.
  • Near the beginning of Dragon Age II, Aveline's husband Wesley is infected by the darkspawn. He begs for her to kill him to spare him the slow, agonizing death the taint would bring him. Hawke can either force Aveline to do so, do it themself, or leave the choice to Aveline; who then kills Wesley herself.
    • Later on, Hawke may have to do this to their sibling, if brought into the Deep Roads without Anders in the party.
    • At the end of the quest "Tranquility," Anders's friend Karl is revealed to be made Tranquil; which cuts a mage off from the Fade, removing their magic and ability to feel emotions. When Karl is temporarily restored by proximity to a spirit, he begs Anders to kill him before it wears off, preferring death to living as an empty husk.
  • Multiple times in L.A. Noire, mostly at the end or in flashbacks at occur near the end. One flashback shows Courtney Sheldon running up a hill to administer a fatal dose of morphine to an injured and screaming soldier. Another flashback reveals an accidental but nightmarish atrocity: a flamethrower soldier torched a cave full of women and children, thinking they were soldiers, and the US soldiers have to shoot each of them to put them out of their misery. Finally done by Jack Kelso for Ira Hogeboom, the aforementioned flamethrower soldier, when the latter can no longer live with what he's done.
  • Skint asks for one at the end of The Reconstruction. Dehl gives it to him.
  • In Jade Empire, the Water Dragon requests one of these from the Spirit Monk. The dragon's body is being kept alive so that her blood can be used to end the drought, while her divine power is being siphoned off by the emperor.
  • Big Bad Kerghan in Arcanum has spent centuries studying the afterlife, concluded that all the suffering living beings must endure means that death is the preferable state of existence, and intends to enact this trope upon all living things.
  • A githzerai woman in Planescape: Torment is violently ill and dying a slow death from the polluted air of the Lower Wards. Unable to even speak, she beseeches the Nameless One through gestures to end her life.
    • A somewhat more comical mercy kill comes in the form of a zombie who has been animated to provide the local coffin maker with a permanent listener—the coffin maker is rather annoying and will talk endlessly about anything and everything, and is so clueless that he doesn't even realize his best listener is a zombie. The zombie begs the Nameless One to undo the enchantment and return him to nothingness because he can't bear to listen to the man any longer.
  • Axenos from Wizard 101 uses the more villainous version of this trope when he decides that to reward the player for releasing him by killing them first so they do not have to witness the horrors he'll bring upon the Spiral. Fortunately he's more bark than bite and no tougher than most boss battles.
  • Redeye, the main villain of H'aanit's arc in Octopath Traverler was originally Graham Crossford who was used as a vessel for the game's true villain, Galdera. The ritual failed but it mutated Graham into the beast who had nothing but brief remembrances of his humanity and could only beg for death when it happened. Killing Redeye also put Graham's soul to rest.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Sailor Nothing combines this with Enemy Without. It doesn't work, however - Himei has come to believe that there's hope for her to have a life that isn't poor, nasty, brutish, and short after all, and manages to muster the Heroic Resolve necessary to activate her Unstoppable Rage and kill her Yamiko.
  • In Survival of the Fittest version one, after having gotten separated from the Intrepid Six and tortured by Cody Jenson, Marcus Roddy finally stumbles across his group again at the river, and after some of his wounds have been treated he goes to rest while everyone else continues their business. However, unknown to them, he had been given a severe concussion, and eventually fell into a coma. After they notice that he had somehow slept through everything that had happened since his arrival, including a few gunfights, they check up on him and discover what has happened. This leads to some debate, but eventually Adam shoots him instead of leaving him to be eaten alive by animals.
    • Another instance happens in version three, between Will and Christian. Christian had been severely wounded by Bobby Jacks earlier, and even though they escaped his injury became steadily worse over the time they spent travelling, and eventually a large rat-like creature appeared when they stopped to rest and attacked him, viciously tearing into the wound before Will kills it. Unable to take the pain any longer and knowing he's lost too much blood to survive even if the wound were treated, Christian asks Will to shoot him. He does.
    • Further examples include Serenity Halos, who suffered a grievous gunshot wound at the hands of Blood Boy, which eventually got worse and worse until, when she finally was reunited with her boyfriend Steve Digaetano, she begged for him to kill her. And Jimmy Trejo, who was fatally wounded in a fight with Harry Tsai and asked for one of his travelling companions, Laeil Burbank, to kill him rather than let him die slowly and painfully.
  • Warcraft Dressing is infamous for frequent mercy kills. The Lich King is a bad, bad man.
  • Many, many items contained by The Foundation can require this. In some cases, you can't even do that.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in The Simpsons, where a flashback shows grade school-age Homer and Chief Wiggum playing Cops and Robbers; Homer, the robber, is wounded, and begs Wiggum for a Mercy Kill.
    • And parodied again in one episode, where Homer - after a surgery - turned down the drink that Moe wanted to give to him. Barney immediately shouts "I can't stand to see him like that." and proceeds to (try to) smother Homer with a pillow.
  • In the first episode of The Venture Brothers, the latest Monarch henchman Speedy is caught in a chokehold by Brock Sampson as he is put into a temporary coma, since they can't get him to let go and that Speedy is suffering badly one of them performs a mercy kill on him by shooting him in the neck.
  • Shayera does this for the resurrected (but now inhuman) Solomon Grundy in a Justice League Unlimited episode in what is one of the most tear jerking scenes in the series.
  • Ruthlessly parodied in Animaniacs, when Yakko, Wakko and Dot have lassoed a Jerry Lewis-style comedian into filming their movie Old Screamer, with the comedian playing the dog. When Yakko sadly explains that they have to put the dog out of his misery, Wakko seems sad for a moment, and then (once Wakko has been given a puppy to replace Old Screamer), to the comedian's horror, cheerfully pulls out a Hyperspace Mallet to do the job...
  • In the episode "Trouble in Lumpy Space" of Adventure Time, there's a conversation where Finn thinks Jake (in the throes of the Lumps) is about to request this of Finn, should he go completely Lumpy. Yes. They actually got away with referencing this. It's never actually stated, and it turns out that Jake just wanted Finn to still be friends with a Lumpy Jake. "What did you think I was saying?"

Real Life

  • Captive bolts were designed to kill an animal with as little suffering as possible, but as the Documentary Earthlings shows, it does not always work as intended.
    • Bolts are better seen as a method for stunning rather than killing, though they can be fatal on their own if aimed right. Slaughterers are usually trained to follow the bolt with another method, such as exsanguination, to ensure the animal doesn't wake up later with a very sore head.
  • The original concept of Coup De Grace, French for "strike of mercy". Nowadays it just means "finish off".
  • The knightly short sword or dagger was called misericordia (Latin for "mercy") for exactly this reason. It was intended to give the Coup De Grace for a mortally wounded soldier who would otherwise linger on his wounds in agony. It was thin enough to penetrate mail and go between the plates of an armour.
  • There are examples and anecdotes from all over the world in everything from the aftermath of disasters to wars to hunting accidents. So this trope is very much Truth in Television.
  • After the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, a lot of wooden frame buildings had collapsed with people inside, and many caught fire due to either broken gas mains, upturned stoves or furnaces, or some combination of the two. Many of the people trapped were pinned under debris, but the admittedly few first responders often didn't have the strength to drag them out before said fire could kill them. There are stories of people begging to be shot if they couldn't be freed.
  • In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Memorial Hospital in New Orleans was surrounded by ten feet of water and did not have enough supplies to maintain their patients. Four of them were killed by hospital personnel and the District Attorney charged them with murder. Charges against the four were dropped by a grand jury.
  • Standard practice for terminally-ill pets.
    • Also for many large animals, especially horses, with broken or badly injured legs. A horse with a broken leg, even if given the best care known to veterinary medicine, is almost always better off euthanized.
  • Self-inflicted during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. The building caught on fire, trapping many workers on the top floor of the factory. The workers decided to jump to their deaths through the windows instead of being slowly burnt to death.
    • Also done by people trapped in the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
  • A priest was being burnt at the stake because he didn't tow the state church line. The village woodcutter, who was loyal to the priest, split the priest's skull with an axe to spare him any further pain.
  • Supposedly, when an older woman found out she had Alzheimer's, she asked her husband to do this if she ever went too far gone. One night, he went to the hospital she was in, shot her in the head, and waited for the police outside.
    • There was also the sad case of Carol Carr. After watching her mother-in-law and husband succumb to Huntington's disease, her two oldest sons developed it as well. She ended up killing them to spare them the pain. This led to controversy in the state of Georgia as to what to try her for...
  • During the Spanish Inquisition, "heretics" who were condemned to burn at the stake would often, if they confessed, be strangled first to spare them the agony of death by fire and/or asphyxiation.
  • In the Alpatacal tragedy (a huge train crash in the Chilean/Argentinian border that killed several Chilean military guys), there's the urban legend about a recruit who had survived the crash, but found one of his friends badly injured and about to burn to death under the debris. The dying guy begged the other to shoot him dead to spare him the upcoming Family-Unfriendly Death, which he did; the "killer" turned himself in, but was absolved by the military judges.
  • That's how Magda and Joseph Goebbels saw the killing of their six children during the last days of the Battle of Berlin in 1945.
  1. It has been shown in other canon Trek works (Voyager, mostly), that Borg drones will start to individuate again and regain their pre-assimilation identities if separated from the Collective for a length of time. Seven of Nine is the most prominent example, but Picard likely didn't know that at the time.