Surprisingly Sympathetic Husband Jailed 6 Years After Mercy Killing His Wife

Mercy killing

Summit County Sheriff’s Department

One of my favorite songs from my childhood is a Reba McEntire  song called “Bobby” about a father who helps to euthanize his wife because she is in pain. At least that is the gist of the song, as I remember it. In Ohio, a man was recently charged for a something similar crime, and I am torn on how I feel about it.

A 68-year-old John Wise, from Ohio, was charged with  fatally shooting his sick wife in her hospital bed this past summer. He was sentenced this week to six years in prison by  Summit County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands. His defense was that he performed a mercy killing, which isn’t permitted in Ohio. The minimum sentence is 23 years, but prosecutors are recommending a shorter sentence. While county prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh has called Wise’s actions illegal and dangerous, she has also said that the case warrants leniency.

Now, I am in no way condoning Wise’s actions. According to his wife’s doctors she wasn’t terminally ill and was responding ti treatment. But I do hope that this gut wrenching tale opens people’s eyes to at least the idea of euthanasia. I am a proponent of life, but I also support one’s dignity at the end, and this story sent chills up my spine.

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  • DeanaCal

    Oh man I’m so torn about this. One one hand she wasn’t terminal but on the other hand he was married to her for a very long time and they likely had discussions about end of life issues. I know my husband and I have talked about that. Even the prosecutor was recommending leniency. With all that being said, you can’t have people going around killing their spouses because “he/she wouldn’t want to live that way” just on their say so.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I agree. I think that’s the problem with this case. I looked at the link and it kind of seems like he killed her because he didn’t want to see her in pain, but then it took her a whole day after being shot to die. He based his “she’s in pain” thing on a tear rolling down her cheek? I really do understand mercy killing, I do… and actually usually I’m okay with it…but I feel like in order to do it he would need to have some concrete proof that she wanted to not live that way, and that she wasn’t going to respond to treatment with more time. The way he decided on this seems the kind of way you would shoot a deer that’s limping around after being hit by a car, and a person needs more than that.

    • DatNanny

      Exactly. This is actually one of the few cases where I’m really withholding sympathy. I also understand mercy killing, and I’m ok with it, when the ill person has made clear they no longer want to endure treatment and prolong their pain and inevitable death. I would usually consider it an extremely selfless act. I worry that in this case his reasons were actually more selfish.

    • Kay_Sue

      I think your last sentence really points to why we need to have this discussion on a wider scale. If someone does wish to end their life because of the pain they are in, there would have to be a system in place of formalizing those wishes in the eyes of the law.

    • Rachel Sea

      There already is a system. A living will describes what you want out of end of life care, and it can be as specific as you want it to be. A durable power of attorney covers who is to be your decision maker in the event that you are unable. All that is needed is for euthanasia to be legal.

    • ted3553

      It doesn’t really cover what many euthanasia cases are looking at though. Most people looking into euthanasia are trying to avoid getting to the point where their living will would kick in.

    • Rachel Sea

      Sure it does. In the 4 states where it is legal, people include the preference in their living wills, before questions of heroic measures. Euthanasia is for people with terminal diagnosis, that is definitively end-of-life care. Depending on the state there are also hospital forms, and a sign-off by a judge to confirm that everything is being done above board.

    • ted3553

      I guess my thinking was that I’d like to be euthanized well before I was at an end of life stage. I had no idea that 4 states had options for this. you learn something new every day.

    • Rachel Sea

      End-of-life can be a longer stretch of time than you might think. Each of the states that permit it require a person to have a life expectancy of no more than 6 months. Even in non-assisted suicide states, hospice care, and other end-of-life services, can start years before death, or hours, depending on how a patient, and their family choose to deal with it.

    • ted3553

      I was actually thinking that end of life can be quite long which is why I can sympathize with people who would prefer to be euthanized rather than suffer of face down many months of terrible health and the inevitable being drug out.

  • NicknamesAreDull

    Those eyes pierce into my heart. I feel for this man.

    I’ve told my husband that I want to die if the quality of my life isn’t what I want. I don’t want to be in a home, and I don’t want to burden my family with my upkeep. I don’t want my daughter’s last memories of me to be negative. I’m sure they had talks. I’m sure he thought he was doing the right thing. This is so gut-wrenching

    • gothicgaelicgirl

      I’ve told my fella not to let me become a vegetable. it’s not fair on him or the kids to be wondering if I’ll ever get better.
      I’ve also told him if anything happens to me, to donate my organs and that I want him to find someone else and move on.
      He’s 36, he’s still a young man, if something DID happen, I’d be more upset knowing he was going to be alone the rest of his life.

      Maybe it’s morbid but at least I am happy knowing that HE knows my wishes

  • Blueathena623

    I’m really trying to be understanding, and part of me does feel for him, but there are other ways besides a gun . . .

    • DeanaCal

      I don’t think the method is really the issue in this case. I can’t imagine sitting down to figure out what the best way to kill my husband and then myself would be. It seems all options would be problematic.

    • jendra_berri

      I think it’s partly the issue. Method matters. He shot his wife in the hospital. People have to work there. Other patients are in intensive care too. How did they feel hearing a gun shot? What about their immediate families, who may be visiting?
      And this sort of shit always leads to more security, which really makes life just harder for everyone. And it didn’t even work quickly. She died the next day. That’s not a good way to go.
      Grief can do scary things to people, but that should not excuse firing a gun at a person in a hospital. For most people, that thought would not have occurred, and for those it would, very few would ever act on it. It’s a damn crazy thing to do. It’s a sad story, but the gun is relevant.

    • Blueathena623

      Wow, didn’t know all of this information.

      I get that the guy was very stressed out, but surely this was not a snap decision. For better or for worse, its really not hard to get a prescription for sleeping pills. I think that would have allowed for a more peaceful end. As long as she had a DNR order, I don’t think the drs could have done much after she swallowed them.

  • ChopChick

    (tale, not tail)

    • Frances Locke

      Noted and fixed. In my defense I wrote this at 4am after seeing the story because I wanted to get my thoughts out. Writing before coffee produces strange, strange results.

  • Amber Starr

    My beautiful aunt suffered and withered away before she died of colon and liver cancer. She would have NEVER wanted to go the way she did, and if she had the choice to go out on her own terms, I know that she would have. I am a firm believer that putting down a sick animal is an act of kindness, and I feel like people should have the same dignity at the end. I still miss my aunt every day, and I would give anything for her to be here to see her new great-niece grow up, but I also wish that if she had to die, she didn’t have to suffer at the end the way she did.

  • Annie

    I feel like there isn’t enough information in this article to support the sympathetic viewpoint, and I understand that this is why there there’s links to more informative ones, but I think when you write something about such a complicated case you need to have that kind of info on hand.

  • jendra_berri

    I do believe in euthanasia, mostly for those who want to choose for themselves to end their suffering when they’re terminally ill. Also if the person is not expected to make a recovery and brain/body function has been severely compromised/leads to a life of pain.
    But I cannot be okay with someone firing a gun in a hospital. A gun is not how you lovingly end the life of someone you care about, and a hospital is no place for shooting a firearm.

    • Simone

      Yes. Perhaps he knew of no other option, but nevertheless this is an unconscionable course of action.

      There is a beautiful moment in the great film ‘Children of Men’ when Michael Caine’s character delivers his quadriplegic wife into death and follows her shortly afterwards, using a government-provided product called Quietus. The right to end one’s life must surely be the last truly inalienable right a person possesses. It should be a legal and peaceful option anywhere in the world.

  • SusannahJoy

    Stories like this are why I wish it was legal. Because then there would be a better way to do it.

  • FF4life

    While I personally think that assisted suicide should be legal for the terminally ill, I really really disagree with this.

    She was not terminally ill, and was responding to treatment. She “seemed” to be in pain. This her husband assumed after seeing a tear run down her cheek. But she wasn’t able to actually say, “Hey I’m in pain, kill me.”

    I know alot of people talk about what to do if you wind up in the hospital bed as a vegetable.. but she wasn’t a vegetable. She was still in there thinking and breathing. Maybe she had hope for her situation and she wasn’t ready to give up. We don’t know that. He couldn’t be absolutely sure either. But he decided to make the decision for her.

    I have had many talks with my significant other on what to do in various situations. But sometimes when the situation actually arises… your feelings change. Like I said.. she was still in there.. and there was hope for her recovery.

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