"Close your eyes..."
"Sometimes death is the only mercy we have left."
Something horrible has happened or is happening to Alice. Her pain is unbearable. Even her loved ones look away and cover their ears, trying to block out the sights and sounds of her agony. There is nothing they can do to ease her pain or save her. But they can offer one last mercy to their friend: they can end it all for her now, before it gets any worse.
Whatever is afflicting Alice is usually in the category of a Fate Worse than Death
(thus making the death a kindness
). There may be a Body Horror
that nobody can figure out how to destroy. 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
. 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. Whatever the reason, this trope implies that death is the merciful option, even if Alice is begging for her life (or is so overcome that she cannot speak at all).
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
, even if holding to Thou Shalt Not Kill
, may make an exception for these.
Note that in Real Life
controversial. In either case, it is usually an incredible Tear Jerker
Not to be confused with Put Them All Out of My Misery
Contrast Cruel Mercy
, which aims to do the exact opposite. Compare the combat-ending Coup de Grâce
, the villainous Thwarted Coup de Grâce
, 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, several if not all spoilers will be unmarked. You have been warned.
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Anime and Manga
- In Detective Conan, one case has the culprit Shimizu killed his girlfriend and partner in crime Oozawa because she took the blame of the crime they both committed by herself and he didn't want to see her in prison for the rest of her life.
- 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 × Hunter's first Anime adaptation. Killua wants 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 Alexander into a pitiful chimera.
- 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.
- In Garei Zero, Kagura kills her surrogate sister Yomi after the latter is possessed by a cursed stone.
- Code Geass:
- 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.
- In Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shinji effectively does this to Kaworu, who does not wish to survive and cause Third Impact. The manga makes this more explicit by revealing that should he survive the battle, SEELE will kill him anyway. He chooses to die by Shinji's hand rather than be murdered by his former handlers.
- Humongous Mecha example: In Gundam 0083, 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.
- That's only in the anime. In the manga, it's made clear that Ryuk has gotten bored.
- 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 High School 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.
- 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 on top of being lethally ill, so to ease her suffer Mr. Ohkuda killed her and then himself. Note that the Takiko-centered manga Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden is still unfinished, so it might retcon this. (As of now, the lethally-ill-but-still-not-devoured Takiko is using her last days to fight for the cause of Genbu before she kicks it.)
- Attempted in Rosario + Vampire, where Tsukune became a ghoul. Thankfully, Moka was stopped before she could land the finisher.
- In Speed Grapher, Suitengu did this to his little sister, Yui, after discovering that years of abuse and degradation in a brothel had destroyed her mind.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Wing Endless Waltz, Heero offers this to the critically injuried Mariemaia after the final battle. When he pulls the trigger, it is revealed that he is out of ammo.
- In the last episode of From the New World, Saki does this to Squeala/Yakomaru after he's sentenced to a Fate Worse than Death and she realizes he is technically human.
- At the end of Elfen Lied:
- Certainly Tsunayoshi viewed her death at the hands of Yoshiyasu as this in Ooku: The Inner Chambers: she had long believed that she became The Wrongful Heir to the Throne and would welcome someone to kill her. It's unclear though if Yoshiyasu killed her to fulfill this trope or if another trope motivated her murder.
- This happens to Hige in Wolf's Rain.
- In One Hundred Bullets, Wylie Times does this to Gabe, a dimunative, ugly Butt Monkey, who only has his uncanny talent at playing the trumpet going for him. Gabe's jaw had been destroyed by a bear trap while running away from a gunfight, putting an end to his musical prospects.
- When X-23 was a child, her handlers gave her a puppy to kill. After an hour, she hadn't killed it. They said they would kill it in the most painful way possible and make her watch unless she mercy killed it.
- Subverted in Preacher, 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 fucked 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 Elfquest, 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 Effect 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 Ultimate X-Men, Wolverine does this for Jesse. There are other factors at work, including the fact that the U.S. government had sent Wolverine to do this and how bad the truth would be for the mutant community, but it's presented as sparing a boy from a Fate Worse than Death.
- 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.
- The World War II comic Sgt. Rock had an interesting variant on this: One of the Easy Company soldiers is trapped in a burning burn after a skirmish, screaming for someone to put him out of his misery. The sergeant and other men hesitate over what to do, before the barn collapses into a ball of flame, along with the man's dying screams, and his soul is snatched up by the Devil. Seems he'd made a Deal with the Devil that he'd never die by gunfire...
- 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.
- Amanda Waller does this to Duren after he is mutated by Regulus's bomb in Suicide Squad #0. It was this act that made her determined that any future special ops team she commanded would be composed of disposable operatives.
- Red Hood and the Outlaws: The Talon in the Night of the Owls tie-in asks this of Jason.
- Sideswipe does this to captured, tortured, and mutilated human companion, Hunter O'Nion at the end of Transformers: All Hail Megatron.
- 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.
- Night Of The Shy: Birostris Oswaft, the last of the Sand Mantas, begs Twilight to do this to him, as he wants nothing more than to join the rest of his people in death.
- The Pony POV Series: This comes up during the Final Battle with Princess Gaia/ Nightmare Whisper. Both Rarity and Rainbow Dash decide they have to kill her, not out of hate, but because they both figure Fluttershy would rather die than see what she's become.
- During the Epilogue/Dark World timeline, Apple Bloom apparently ended up subjected to the same curse as Sunny Town. After eventually helping the entire town free themselves from the curse and move on, she begs Liarjack to do the same for her so she can be with her family; reluctantly, LJ agrees, and Apple Bloom dies.
- This rationale is how his allies comfort Shining Armor for having killed one of Makarov's Alicorn cyborg Co-Dragons, by pointing out that the poor soul was in a living hell.
- The Fall Of The Fire Empire: When Ozai descended into senile madness, Azula smothered him with a pillow. Qing Xi describes it as the only merciful act of her life.
- The Powers Of Harmony: After Eclipse fatally poisons him, condemning him to a slow and painful death, Strauss requests that Granny Smith put him out of his misery. She reluctantly complies.
- In Cheerilee's Garden, after Cheerilee submerges Pinkie Pie into a container full boiling hot water, she convinces Rainbow Dash that it would be better to put her out of her misery rather than to let her go on living.
- Discussed in the Berserk fanfic "The Entire World is a Battlefield" when Guts is met by a spectre of pre-Eclipse Casca. While the real Casca is not dead, she is mentally gone, and Guts wonders if the current Casca is better off dead after what she experienced.
- The Fall of Cleveland has Marshall find a hideously tortured fluffy pony in the chapter "The Facility". It begs for help, but it's so horribly maimed that Marshall can't think of a way to help it. So he does the only thing he can and breaks its neck. The fluffy's last word is "Ffffffffffannnnnnkkkkkkkk..." (Fluffies can't pronounce "th" sounds.)
- Mammoth does this for Plasmius/Otto von Furth in Consequence of Misunderstandings after Slade makes it impossible for him to sleep (and thus stay human). Gizmo mentions that while Raven's healing powers do prevent most of them, the team has had to perform mercy kills before.
- In Constant Temptation Light does this for his father, he writes his name in the Death Note after his father has been kidnapped and tortured to breaking by Beyond Birthday before Beyond was finished hacking pieces off of him.
- 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, Zoe acknowledges it: "That was a piece of mercy."
- Also attempted (as seen on tape) by a woman on herself as the Reavers are breaking in. She fails. The tape continues to record.
- 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.
- Coupled with Fridge Brilliance in Cleopatra. One of Cleopatra's ladies-in-waiting serves her a poisoned drink and begs for forgiveness. Cleopatra says "I forgive you" and orders her to drink the poison. It's a Mercy Kill because being poisoned is likely to be a much more quick and effective death compared to what the servant might have gotten as punishment for trying to assassinate the Queen.
- This appears frequently in the Alien franchise, often by victims of facehuggers, although in a deleted scene from Alien 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.
Picard: There was no way to save him!
Lily: You didn't even try!
- In the fifth Star Trek film, Bones relives one of his most painful moments, where his father is dying and suffering from an incurable disease. He begs Bones to stop treatment so that he can finally die. Bones does so, and the very next day a cure for his father's disease was discovered.
- Averted in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, when Obi-Wan leaves Anakin's mangled, triple-amputated, horrifically burnt body on Mustafar. Killing him would've been a mercy at that point, though we know that, logically, that could never happen. The novelization makes his thought process on why he doesn't do it explicit.
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.
- 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 (2004) 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. Adam was left in the bathroom to die at the end of the first movie, and Amanda, unable to detach herself emotionally like Jigsaw does, suffocates Adam with a plastic bag so he dies quickly instead of starvation or disease.
- It may have been more guilt on Amanda's part. In the flashback where she and Jigsaw are setting up the bathroom trap, it shows she failed to secure the key that would have freed Adam properly (Jigsaw told her to tie it around his ankle - she just placed it in the tub and it wound up going down the drain). If she had done what Jigsaw told her, Adam would have survived.arifi
- 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 (2003) 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 vampire virus, Neville chokes her to death. Borderline in that it's also self preservation, because Sam is already becoming hostile.
- In Blade II, 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.
- In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the protagonists come across Shangri-La in the Himalayas, but find out that it has been taken over by Totenkopf, and its inhabitants used as slaves and test subjects in the irradiated mines. They find this out from the last survivor of Totenkopf's experiments, a disfigured old man who asks but one question for all his answers: "Kill Me." It is unknown if they fulfilled his wish.
- Logan, to an injured grizzly bear in The Wolverine.
- In the German Holocaust drama Der letzte Zug, a severely dehydrated Erika Friedlich stops lactating, and suffocates her baby son rather than allow him to slowly starve to death.
- 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.
- In the last episode of The Big C, the main character, a woman on hospice care with late-term stage 4 skin cancer, begs her brother to find someone to help her die, because she is in pain (despite the morphine) and can barely see. To say he is upset at the prospect is a severe understatement.
- On Angel:
- 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.
- At the end of Season 4, 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*
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Dark!Willow feels the pain of everyone in the world, and intends to do this on a global scale.
- In Season 9, Angel and Faith kill the people who took the Mohra Demon blood, as they kept growing giant tumors all over their bodies.
- 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 Doctor: You sleep now, Sally. Just sleep.
- The nature and purpose of the kill isn't apparent at first, but in the first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), 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 ressurected 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.
- Deckhand Socinus while they're on Kobol after a crash landing(the episode with the mother-frakker line)is given an overdose of a painkiller as he's in agony from his injuries 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.
- Sometimes, even that can't be used due to circumstances. One time, a team got stuck in a Road Block, unable to find the hidden clue despite hours of work. Eventually, the host appeared in person to put the team out of their misery.
- 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 Mash. 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.
- Chloe is forced to do this to Davis as he begins to transform into Doomsday.
- Lex claims this in the 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.
- Tess herself had previously attempted a Mercy Kill via cyanide injection on a suffering and apparently dying adolescent clone of Lex. His "suffering" turned out to be from the activation of the previously unknown Kryptonian DNA weaved into his genetics, and the needle couldn't break his skin.
- 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.
- In Season 2, Daryl delivers one to Dale via a shot to the head, after he's been disemboweled by a zombie.
- In one episode of CSI Crime Scene Investigation, the victim of the week was a girl whose family had been using her as a glorified bone marrow bank for her very ill brother. The murderer was the brother himself in an attempt to end both her pain and his own. Grissom isn't very sympathetic, arguing that the brother could have simply killed himself, ending his pain and giving his sister the opportunity for a normal life; when he responds that suicide is a sin, Grissom, in the iciest voice imaginable, replies, "But you think your God forgives murder?" The rest of her relatives also end up going to jail for helping the brother, blatantly the favorite child, cover up the murder.
- Supernatural. While soulless, Sam encounters five men who are All Webbed Up and infected with venom by a spider demon. Instead of taking them to a hospital, he arbitrarily decides to shoot them to spare their agony, then burn the bodies. Unfortunately the spider demon was actually creating more of itself, and the result is Immune to Bullets and fire. One of the victims, an ally Sam used as The Bait to find the demon, survives and wants revenge. He points out that rather than sparing him, Sam has actually created more monsters.
- In the last episode of The4400 Shawn does this when Danny is dying painfully from his ability.
- In the Masters Of Horror episode "Imprint", the disfigured prostitute claims to have murdered Komomo to spare her the life of a prostitute and being tortured by the madam. She believes that she sent Komomo from Hell to Heaven.
- The humans of Warhammer40000 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, 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.
- The Sovereign of Sorrow, from the webcomic Captain SNES: The Game Masta, apparently wants to do this to everyone.
- In Cuanta Vida, BLU Medic does this to BLU Sniper after Sniper is Driven to Suicide after losing his lover and then his eyes. He claims to have done this at the Sniper's request, but a little while after that he tries to do it again when the BLU Scout gets a crippling injury on his leg; "a Scout that can't run is a dead weight". The Scout was not consulted about this beforehand, and fortunately the BLU Spy is able to intervene.
- Parodied in a recent Exterminatus Now, Alien Shout Out ahoy
- Mr. Rovainen from Girl Genius does it preemptively.
- In Goblins a mysterious character (his identity is revealed later) snaps the owlbear's neck who is about to be tortured. It's also revealed that this was the actual meaning of Saves-A-Fox's Prophetic Name. In an attempt to Screw Destiny, when she found the fox she was supposed to save, she killed it instead, and only later found out it was actually suffering from a terminal disease.
- Arguably, this strip of The Order of the Stick.
- Sluggy Freelance: Explicitly stated by Riff that he is going to do this to Zoe.
- Thunderstruck offers a straight example, with a good ol' Neck Snap being the method used.
- In The Zombie Hunters, the "Mercy" zombies perform arguably the creepiest Mercy Kill ever. They only approach sick, wounded or dying humans, and follow them, protecting them from other more violent breeds, until they collapse. Mercies then deliver a single bite to a vital artery, and hold the dying victim, gently stroking their hair and cooing softly. They'll even remain with their victim for hours after they turn. Website materials state that some traumatized survivors seek them out as a form of suicide, hence the name. These same supplementary materials recommend that human rescuers euthanize many survivors of Berserker zombies, who love to torture and beat their victims before biting them.
- In 8-Bit Theater, Black Mage mentions that he killed his own brother, who was blind. When questioned about it, he responds that it was an act of mercy, and it would've been far more cruel to let his brother live after what BM had done to his eyes.
- Black Mage gets points for the most sadistic and needlessly elaborate "mercy kill" of all time; he trapped his blind brother in an uneven room filled with sharp corners and tiger pits. Then pushed him into one of the tiger pits when it looked like he was going to make it across.
- In And Shine Heaven Now, it's revealed that Walter and Alucard did this to Jeeves when he was mortally wounded in World War II, since he could not fall into the hands of the Nazis and Jeeves refused to be turned into a vampire. Officially, he's listed as MIA, presumed dead.
- Walter himself ended up mercy killed when he was brainwashed by the I-Jin of Jeeves to work for Millennium. His brainwashing could be broken only temporarily, his choices were death or being forever binded to Integra. He chose death. To make it even sadder, his own daughter had to do the deed.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn's horse Ember has been gutted and had its back broken by a dragon, and cannot be saved, only spared.
- 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. In V4, Adrian Staib begs Samantha Ridley to finish him off after he falls down a hill and paralyzes his arms and legs.
- 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.
- Exactly what did Toki imprison herself in an underground safe-haven for? Well, needless to say, she's regretted it and says Madgie didn't give her a choice. Subverted, though, as Madgie is not explicitly mentioned as suffering, though if she was bleeding quite severely, so one would assume that she had been injured badly enough and was already dying, so what Toki regretted ever having to do had only quickened her death.
- The trope comes up more than once in Worm:
- When Skitter sees what Bonesaw did to Grue, Ballistic offers to kill him, but Skitter refuses, wanting to find some way to avoid it.
- At the end of Noelle's rampage, after Noelle has almost completely given in to her Superpowered Evil Side, the last thing Sundancer does before returning to Earth Aleph is burn her to death with her sun.
- The protagonist herself shoots Aster Anders, a toddler, to prevent her from suffering a Fate Worse than Death at the hands of the Slaughterhouse Nine.
- Later, Contessa does this to Khepri, after her mind has degraded to the point that she can no longer think in terms that don't imply her planned conquest of all possible Earths, and she is briefly able to signal her approval through refusing Contessa's offer of help.
- The Nostalgia Critic is on the ground, sobbing and begging for the Devil to kill him in Son of the Mask. Nothing painful is happening to him, mind you, he just wants out of life again.
- 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?"
- 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...
- Shayera does this for the resurrected (but now an Empty Shell) Solomon Grundy in a Justice League Unlimited episode in what is one of the most tear jerking scenes in the series.
Doctor Fate: Your mace
may be the one object on Earth that can grant him peace.
John Stewart: What are you saying?
Shayera: Your favorite movie's Old Yeller, you know exactly what he's saying.
- 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.
- In the first episode of The Venture Bros., 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.
- The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode, "Yesteryear," had this trope as the critical decision Spock as a child had to make concerning his mortally wounded pet, I-Chaya. When Spock decided that putting him down was the most humane and logical choice, that was the moment he embrace the traditional teachings of Surak of logic and emotional control.
- 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.
- The original concept of Coup de Grâce, 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 Grâce 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. There is a story of at least one person who complied before the victim could burn to death, who then went immediately to the nearest police he could find to turn himself in. After listening to his story, the police told him he had done the right thing and let him go.
- Similarly, in the Alpatacal tragedy (a huge train crash in the Chilean/Argentinian border that killed several Chilean soldiers), there's the urban legend about a recruit who had survived the crash but found his friend badly injured and about to burn to death under the debris. The dying guy begged the other to shoot him dead with his service gun and spare him the upcoming Family-Unfriendly Death, which the survivor did; then he turned himself, but was absolved by the military judges since the victim would've died anyway.
- 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 or suffocating from the smoke.
- 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 toe 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, she saw her two oldest sons develop 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...
- Much of the Terri Schiavo tragedy dealt with just how much this was the case.
- 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.
- 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.
- An American paratrooper during the Battle of the Bulge witnessed this first hand. Following a skirmish with a German squad, a great majority of the enemy soldiers surrendered, most of them wounded. However, the American's squad did not have the supplies, nor the manpower, to guard or feed the prisoners (like the Americans, the Germans were badly low on supplies and food, and it was was one of the reasons they surrendered, to get aid for their wounded.) Finally, the American squad leader grabbed a German machine pistol, gathered just enough ammo for it, and disposed of the rest of the weapons and ammo, telling the German squad leader (who spoke English) the cold hard truth that they could not take them prisoner, and that he was leaving the submachine gun behind for those who wanted to end it quickly. A few minutes after the Americans left, they began hearing single gunshots behind them.
- Battlefield medics and surgeons in the past were traditionally "unarmed" but usually allowed to carry pistols, both for self-defence and for taking care of those who were beyond any other help.