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Failure-to-Save Murder

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Raiden: Your family honored me with this memento of your cousin Lao, after his death.
Kung Jin: A death you caused! You made him fight Shao Kahn, and stood there while that bastard snapped his neck!

Say there are three characters, Alice, Bob, and Charlie. There is a tragic accident, and Charlie is killed. Alice was present when the accident happened but may or may not have been able to prevent his death. This trope comes into play when characters discuss whether Alice could be considered the murderer of Charlie. Generally, there are three parts in this scenario: the Child (the person who died, Charlie), the Hero (the person who failed to save the Child, Alice), and the Fool (the one who blames the Hero for failing to save the Child, Bob).

In one version, Alice endures the false accusations of another character. Bob, who was very close to Charlie, blames Alice for his death just as if she'd killed him herself. In this version, Alice usually could not have prevented Charlie's death, but Bob will cherish a lingering hatred toward her because she "failed" to save him. If this happened in the past, it may serve as Bob's motivation for his continued antagonism toward Alice. If so, Bob is typically flavored as a villain via The Complainer Is Always Wrong, or at least The Load, and his decision to let go of his anger (or not) becomes a major part of his Character Development.

A second version is when Alice blames herself for the death of Charlie (playing both the Hero and the Fool). Additionally, the antagonist may go on to use this against Alice, playing on guilt as a form of torture or to break her down. This version is prominent enough to have become its own trope: "I Let Gwen Stacy Die." It is almost exclusively a heroic trope, since villains are less likely to blame themselves for anyone's death, even a loved one's; if they do, this is typically used to flavor them as more of an Anti-Villain or Well-Intentioned Extremist.

This trope is very much a Gray-and-Grey Morality trope and plays on ideas of guilt and responsibility. If Alice can save Charlie, does she have a moral obligation to try, or is it okay to allow him to die? If Alice cannot save Charlie, is it right for Bob to blame her for his death? If Bob does, what does that say about him?

Truth in Television, to an extent, as enumerated in further detail on the Murder by Inaction page. In many countries there is no duty to rescue another person in peril, but if you do attempt to rescue them and mess it up it's possible for you to be held responsible for their death (there are various justifications for this, such as the idea things might have gone differently if you had done nothing, or that your incompetent intervention may have prevented/discouraged someone more competent from intervening instead). There's a reason some doctors are told to keep silent if someone calls out Is There a Doctor in the House?.

See also It's All My Fault, These Hands Have Killed, can be an element of Survivor's Guilt. Accomplice by Inaction is a similar concept, and indeed that trope and this one have a high overlap rate. Disney Villain Death plays on this. Contrast Save the Villain.

Compare/Contrast Murder by Inaction, where Alice deliberately and maliciously allows Charlie to drown, as well as Betrayal by Inaction. See also Engineered Heroics, where Alice deliberately put Charlie in danger to receive credit for saving him. In this case, by failing to save Charlie, Alice is just as guilty as if she killed him herself. See also Why Couldn't You Save Them?.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In one scene in Baccano!, Jacuzzi insists that Isaac and Miria should stop treating him like a good person because he's not — he's fleeing from Chicago because he murdered three men. Donny interjects that Jacuzzi didn't kill them, his friends did. Against Jacuzzi's wishes. Because those men were about to kill him. Jacuzzi fails to see the difference.
  • In Bleach, Uryu's grudge against the Soul Reapers stems from the fact that they had Soul Reapers watching his grandfather, and when he got attacked by Huge Hollows, didn't intervene until after his death. Uryu comes to realize that he didn't do anything to try to help his grandfather at that time, and that it's wrong to blame the Soul Reapers when his grandfather was not bitter toward them. Also, he has since discovered that the Ax-Crazy Token Evil Captain Mayuri was the actual culprit, bribing Soul Reapers so that they would be too late and, worse, abducting the survivors (including his grandfather) in order to perform horrific experiments on them to satisfy his own curiosity (if by "curiosity" you mean "torture and kill them in numerous horrible ways for no obvious scientific reason"). He has thus shifted his emnity towards him and away from Soul Reapers in general (though he doesn't fully like or trust them either). This results in his being reduced to Mayuri's Butt-Monkey. Not even the fact that Uryu nearly killed Mayuri the first time they fought can save him from that status.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • At one point, Othinus claims that because Touma Kamijou didn't do anything to save Sherry Cromwell's best friend Ellis from being murdered, he's just as responsible. Touma angrily points out that he wasn't even born yet when that happened. Othinus then casually uses her Reality Warper powers to alter the world so Ellis is alive again and claims that means she's better than him.
    • Shinka Kanou blames Touma for not saving his best friend Frenda Seivelun from being murdered. When Shiage Hamazura sets him straight by pointing out Touma was half a world away in Europe trying to prevent a war at the time, Shinka realizes he's being foolish and repents.
  • In Fruits Basket, Kyo blames himself for Kyoko Honda's death. He could have gotten her out of harm's way, but he would have transformed in the middle of a busy street, so he did nothing. Nobody else seems to know about it (except possibly Kazuma), but he heavily associates it with his mother's death, which many people do blame him for. It doesn't help that he (mistakenly) believes Kyoko died hating him for his inaction, either.
  • Gunsmith Cats has a man blame his daughter's death on Rally's failure to shoot her murderer in time.
  • Kirito gets hit with this a couple of times in Sword Art Online- notably, he ALWAYS blames himself:
    • The first and most notable time would be the deaths of his first guild, the Moonlit Black Cats. He blames himself for A: Not being strong enough to save them, B: Not being smart enough to prevent the trap that resulted in their deaths, and C: Joining up with them and hiding his level, believing they would not have wandered into said trap otherwise.
    • The second one is similarly notable, though: He also blames himself for being unable to prevent Eugeo's death at the hands of Quinella/Administrator. This one ends up nearly causing him to commit suicide, though he does snap out of it.
  • In Higehiro, Sayu's mother blames her for her best friend Yuuko's suicide, causing Sayu to run away from home and eventually have to offer Sex for Services to survive. Her accusation is especially egregious because Yuuko was Sayu's Only Friend and nobody else is more shaken by her death.
  • High School D×D: Akeno Himejima blames her father Baraqiel for not being there when their relatives murdered her mother Shuri, who got herself killed while protecting her. Baraqiel himself doesn't deny it, as while he was able to kill Shuri's murderers, Akeno angrily disowns him as her father and goes into exile as a result. Thankfully, they later reconcile thanks to Issei.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED:
    • Flay Allster blames Kira Yamato for failing to save her father in Phase 9, all because he was hesitating in battle against his friend Athrun, who was working for ZAFT. This becomes Flay's motivation to make Kira pay for not saving her father, as she then proceeds to play the part of a supportive girlfriend — banking on the feelings he holds towards her — to get him to kill his fellow Coordinators, hoping he'll also die fighting.
    • Later, Cagalli blames Kira for not arriving in time to save her company, blaming the fact that her friend Ahmed got killed on Kira when she was the one who chased after Andrew Waltfeld's BuCUE company. In response to Cagalli's misdirected ranting, Kira shuts her up with an Indignant Slap for trying to fight a war with nothing but rampant emotions.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Rio Kurotori joins Ark after the two executors she goes to for help in saving her mother from a haunt turn her down for petty reasons.
  • In Naruto, Sasuke's motives are based around his feelings of guilt for not being able to stop the massacre of his clan.
  • In a filler episode of One Piece, a female member of the Desert Pirates remembers Princess Vivi and King Cobra visiting her city and promising to come help if anything happened, during which time she personally met a young Vivi. When the droughts hit, and Cobra didn't come to help, the city was deserted, and the girl was left in despair until the Desert Pirates recruited her. This caused her to resent Vivi upon seeing her again, but Vivi apologized, saying that there were many other towns requiring the king's attention, enabling the two to reconcile.

    Comic Books 
  • Batgirl (2011): In the first issue, a cop screams that Batgirl is a murderer when the villain kills someone and she doesn't stop him. Slightly more legitimate since it seemed like she was just letting it happen (she was actually petrified in fear, this being her first real mission since being un-paralyzed), but given that the real murderer was still standing right there it seems like the cop should have had other thoughts on her mind. Commissioner Gordon calls the cop out on this in the next issue.
  • Circles: Paulie is the Child, Arthur is the Hero, and Douglas is the Fool. Paulie contracted HIV from a friend and Douglas blames Arthur for not stopping Paulie, but Arthur was too drunk and passed out before he could do anything about it. Needless to say, Arthur took it hard and blamed himself for years.
  • Civil War (2006). A group of superheroes fail to stop Nitro from blowing up Stamford, resulting in 300 casualties, most of whom were school children. Naturally, the public blame all superheroes for this, and call for a radical political shift to make sure superheroes are controlled to avoid this ever happening again...somehow. Only a handful of people seem to actually care about hunting Nitro down. Wolverine finally tracks him down, well after the whole Civil War nonsense is in full swing.
  • Green Lantern: John Stewart failed to save the planet Xanshi in the Cosmic Odyssey miniseries. John's guilt for this was extreme enough in the years afterward that one could be forgiven for assuming that he'd blown up the planet himself. The Xanshian warrior Fatality blames the whole Green Lantern Corps for the destruction of her planet, and went on a crusade to kill them all. In this case, John's guilt isn't unjustified. He didn't just fail to save the planet. He knocked out J'onn J'onzz, who could have saved the planet. Stewart was overconfident and didn't consider the possiblity the bomb would be yellow and decided to "protect" the guy who is on par with Superman in power.
  • Hawkeye and Mockingbird's marriage broke down initially largely because of this. Long story short, Mockingbird was drugged and raped by the Phantom Rider, and gets revenge by choosing to let him fall to his death rather than save him. When Hawkeye finds out, via the obviously biased word of Phantom Rider's spirit that Bobbi allowed him to die, Hawkeye becomes strained with her because 'Avengers don't kill'. He later gets past it when he learns the full details, but they never return to their former closeness.
  • Iron Man: The Exile killed his father and possibly his brothers in a drunken rampage despite Tony's best efforts to stop him. The Exile rightly blamed himself at first, but his Mandarin Ring (the Rings' sole purpose is to make Tony Stark suffer) convinced him that it was Tony's fault for not stopping him in time.
  • Paperinik New Adventures: In an interesting variation, the Gryphon blames Paperinik for the death of his father the Raider, but, as pointed out by Paperinik, he could have saved him by using his Time Machine to prevent the Raider from going on the mission in which he would have committed his Heroic Sacrifice, had he really wanted to. Trip, the teenaged son of the Raider brought there by Eidolon, wasn't happy to hear this... Especially after Paperinik is proved right when the Raider shows up, as Eidolon taking him got him to cancel that mission to save his son.
    • The series averts this with the Time Police: while they could go out and change the timeline to prevent horrible events they don't, and when someone tries they directly act to stop them... Because they're all too aware of the Butterfly of Doom and won't risk things going even worse. "The Day of the Cold Sun", however, shows they don't like it, and when Paperinik prevents the destruction of Duckburg in a cold fusion experiment gone wrong and stalls them long enough they're willing to settle for arresting the time pirate that helped him and make the experiment fail in a harmless way. As the man who tried the experiment survives, he later goes on causing a greater mess.
  • Robin (1993): The General sets off a bomb next to a car while fighting Robin and while Robin manages to save the police detective standing next to it he fails to realize there were kids in the car. Since the kids were the General's brother and sister the General blames their deaths entirely on Robin and revamps his entire identity and criminal goals to try and get his revenge, despite the fact that he was the one who killed them.
  • Spider-Man:
  • Superman: In Superman: Grounded, a random woman once berated Superman for being off-world during the New Krypton storyline — while trying to stop a war — while her husband was having an aneurysm. She thought Superman could have saved her husband with heat vision or something. Superman was the only person that actually took her seriously — everyone else in-universe and out thought she was crazy to expect that from Superman. Most readers and critics agreed: the death of one man was of course tragic, but Superman was away trying to save entire worlds.
  • In W.I.T.C.H., Ari of Arkhanta (a farmer who enslaved a banshee to become powerful) carries a massive grudge against the Oracle of Kandrakar. The reason? Ari's son was born autistic, and the Oracle isn't doing anything to fix this.
  • Wonder Woman Vol. 2: In the "Lifelines" storyline, Doctor Julian Lazarus' ex-wife Allison calls him a murderer when their son Kris dies after getting caught in an explosion at his lab. Lazarus was so distraught that he tried to use his experiments to bring Kris back to life, even though his work was only intended to recreate physical copies rather than a complete personality, and at best what he created was a computer program that thought it was his son.
  • What If?: In one story featuring The Fantastic Four having the same powers as the Human Torch, Susan Storm becomes distraught when she finds out her team caused the death of a little girl in a building they accidentally set fire to but didn't bother to put out in time until it was too late. This caused Susan to forsake ever using her powers again and becoming a nun in the process, while the other three team members went their own separate ways, with Ben Grimm joining the Avengers as the Human Torch.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Children of Time finale, Professor Moriarty intends to kill Beth Lestrade, because of her Temporal Paradox status. Sherlock Holmes has, by this time, done a Face–Heel Turn and — though he once genuinely cared about Beth (and may have even shared something approaching Belligerent Sexual Tension with her) — now simply stands there and practically asks Moriarty to kill him, as well. He's just that bored with life. Beth steps forward, instead, and makes a desperate Heroic Sacrifice, taking the bullets meant for Holmes. He does absolutely nothing to stop Moriarty from killing her, nor does he do anything to help her while she lies dying. Moriarty uses this against him big-time in his efforts to break Holmes, and it works magnificently. Even after things are set right, it's indicated that Holmes will not be able to forgive himself for a very long time to come.
  • CONSEQUENCES (Miraculous Ladybug):
    • Hawkmoth attempts to invoke this in WORLD BEYOND, using the Miraculouses he stole to attack monuments around the world, blaming Ladybug and Chat Noir for being unable to pursue and stop him, or bring his victims back with the Miraculous Cure. Lila happily parrots this rhetoric, pushing Adrien past his Rage Breaking Point with her.
    • In WORLD BEYOND: PART II, Félix holds Ladybug and Chat Noir responsible for the deaths of all the sentimonsters that Hawkmoth created.
  • In Constant Temptation, Light blamed himself for being unable to protect his Love Interests from his father who had them killed.
  • Dragon's Dance: During a mission with Team Rocket, Lance stood guard outside the door while a high-ranking member threatened a wealthy man with his ursaring if he didn't renew his business contracts with Team Rocket. The man refused, and the ursaring mauled him to death. Lance, frozen with shock and horror, didn't do anything to save him, and considers himself just as guilty of the man's death as the rocket member who ordered the ursaring to attack.
  • Erased Potential: Rave holds Eraserhead responsible for how his little sister was killed in a Hostage Situation, believing that he should have been able to prevent her death.
  • In Fates Collide, Astolfo sacrificed himself to save Ruby Rose. In the sequel, Lost to Dust, Astolfo's friend Bradmante angrily blames Ruby for his death, constantly telling her, "You Should Have Died Instead." Although Astolfo's other friend Charlemagne seemed more level headed about it, he eventually reveals that he feels the same way and calls Ruby a failure for not being able to save him.
  • Field of Innocence: Azula holds Iroh responsible for Lu Ten's death, declaring that he "killed his own son".
  • The Ouroboros: In order to replace their Alternate Universe counterparts, the turtles, April and Casey convinced them that they needed to head into space to complete a Stable Time Loop. After figuring out the deception, the spacefarers return and discover that Master Splinter died in their absence. While they were murdered by the Shredder, they hold the thieves responsible for their demise, believing that they should have protected the victim and kept them safe.

    Films — Animated 
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: In the Canon Event scene, Miguel O'Hara tells Miles that every Spider-Person has experienced this trope (either being blamed for a death because they didn't save someone or blaming themselves), using the death of a parental figure (i.e. Peter Parker's Uncle Ben and Miles' Uncle Aaron) as an example. He then tells Miles that the death of a police captain via this trope (i.e. Captain Stacy) is also a canon event, meaning that Miles' father (who will be sworn in as captain in a few days) will have to die in order to preserve Miles' dimension. They're forced to imprison Miles so he won't try to save his father, but thanks to a tip for Hobie Brown, Miles escapes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes is this in spades. Dr. Phibes (The Fool) spends the entire film in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the medical team (The Hero) who failed to save his wife (The Child) after she was injured in a car crash.
  • Played with in The Dark Knight Trilogy. In Batman Begins, Bruce chose to leave Ra's al Ghul aboard a crashing train to stop his plot of driving the city to fear-toxin-induced destruction, which earns him the wrath of Ra's' daughter Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises. The twists here? First, Bruce had been goaded by Ra's for some time to "do what is necessary," meaning the murder of criminals, so Batman defeating him without actually killing him was that much more significant. Of course, Talia didn't draw any distinction between Ra's' death and murder, seeing the situation as Bruce betraying him and the League of Shadows. Illustrated perfectly in this dialogue from TDKR:
    Batman: [Ra's] was trying to kill millions of innocent people.
    Talia: Innocent is a strong word to throw around Gotham, Bruce.
  • In the original Friday the 13th, the motive of the first killer, Pamela Voorhees, is that the camp counselors who were supposed to be watching her son Jason when he drowned in Crystal Lake were too busy having sex instead. However, Pamela's madness has extended this to all camp counselors, even those working at Camp Crystal Lake many years after Jason's death. Though to be perfectly fair, ALL the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are AWFULLY interested in having sex.
  • In I, Robot, Spooner's deep antipathy for robots comes because he blames a robot for this. Both he and a young girl were involved in a vehicle accident, and a robot only had time to save one of them. It chose to save Spooner (over his objections) because he had a higher chance of survival. Though he owes his life to the robot's actions, he blames it for letting the girl die, arguing that a human would have considered it more important to save the child.
  • Nero's motive in Star Trek (2009). The Fool is Nero, The Hero is Spock, and by proxy the Federation, and The Child is Romulus, with Nero's pregnant wife on it.

    Journal Roleplay 
  • In Doubt Academy: Black, it's unclear whether or not this would actually count as murder in Monobear's Kangaroo Court. This forms the crux of Chapter 4's Trial, as Hiroshi claims that they tried to prevent the victim's Attempted Suicide and failed. Much of the debate of that trial revolves around whether or not they're lying, as well as the morality of his friends trying to conceal the evidence they found linking him to the scene. Turns out Monobear doesn't consider him responsible.

  • In The Alice Network, Charlie blames herself for her brother’s suicide because she was unable to save him from himself.
  • This is the source of many characters' resentment of Gaius Sextus in Codex Alera, specifically those who were close to "the Child," Sextus' son Gaius Septimus.
  • Roland spent at least a couple volumes of The Dark Tower chastising himself for letting Jake die.
    • Ditto his first love Susan. Also his mother, although to be fair he was mind controlled into killing her himself. This trope could easily have been named Roland of Gilead Syndrome.
  • Forest Kingdom: Attempted unsuccessfully in the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series' book 1, where Hawk and Fisher are targeted by one person for failing to keep another person alive. The killer is Lord Roderik Hightower, who blames them for the death of his son.
  • In Harry Potter, Dumbledore's brother Aberforth blames him for getting their sister killed, even a century later. He tried to run off with Grindelwald with her in tow and Aberforth tried to stop them because she was too fragile to get dragged around the world. She got killed in the ensuing chaotic Mêlée à Trois. As far as Aberforth is concerned if he didn’t resent his Promotion to Parent and had taken better care of her, she wouldn’t have died. For his own part, Dumbledore thinks he might have well as killed her himself and considers her death the biggest mistake he ever made.
  • Holly: After her daughter disappeared, Penny hired Holly to find her. Holly investigated, and learned that Bonnie had been kidnapped, killed, and eaten by Evil Old Folks who'd done the same to four other people. When she learned what happened to her daughter, Penny started screaming her head off and tried to attack the people who'd come to tell her (a cop and a psychiatrist). When she calmed down enough, Penny blamed Holly for what happened and swore that she never wanted to see her again.
  • October Daye:
    • Manuel blames Toby for his sister Dare's death, despite Toby trying to save her, and Manuel shooting the actual killer himself.
    • Julie feels similarly about her boyfriend Ross, who took a bullet meant for Toby.
    • Rayseline survived, but she still blames Toby for failing to save her and her mother from kidnapping and torture, despite Toby being turned into a fish at the time.
  • Emerald "Emry" Blair from Only Superhuman blamed her father for being unable to save her mother.
  • In The Prodigal Mage Arlin Garrick blames Rafel and Asher for the drowning of his father in a whirlpool at the blighted reef, despite all of their early warnings and later efforts to save everyone.
  • Star Wars Legends
    • In Wraith Squadron, Myn Donos is introduced as the leader of a X-Wing squadron that flies into a trap, of which he is the only survivor. Not only does he blame himself for failing to save his squadmates, he also starts believing that said squadmates' families must hate him as the man who led their loved ones to their deaths. It takes a heavy-handed intervention from his current squadmates before he snaps out of it.
    • At the climax of Hand of Thrawn, Tierce accuses Pellaeon of letting Thrawn die. Of course, by then he's not really making a lot of sense.
      "He ran out of time. He died at Bilbringi. You let him die at Bilbringi."
    • At the conclusion of the New Jedi Order Dark Tide duology, Corran Horn is made the fall guy for the destruction of Ithor's ecosystem.
    • The Fate of the Jedi series begins with Luke Skywalker exiled from the Galactic Alliance for failing to prevent his nephew Jacen from falling to the Dark Side and consequently the Second Galactic Civil War.
  • In The Titan's Curse, Percy promises Nico that he'll keep his sister Bianca safe. At the end of the book, Nico finds out about her Heroic Sacrifice and runs away, blaming Percy for her death until the next book. It doesn't help that his Fatal Flaw is holding grudges, or that he has a heavily repressed crush on Percy. Even at the end of The Heroes of Olympus, he is still struggling with his anger despite, in more rational moments, accepting that there wasn't anything Percy could have done.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Hawkfrost thinks that Firestar failing to stop Scourge from killing his father Tigerstar is equal to Firestar murdering him himself.
    • In Sign of the Moon, while at a Gathering, Dawnpelt accuses Jayfeather of murdering her brother Flametail. In reality, the death was a tragic accident (Flametail had fallen through the ice, and Jayfeather dived in and tried to pull him out of the water but would have drowned himself if he hadn't let go), but Dawnpelt was too consumed with grief to see the obvious.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Arrow Season 2, Laurel initially blames the Hood (and as such the Arrow) for failing to save Tommy from being killed in the Undertaking. Her father is able to get to realize that's unfair and unreasonable...which makes her realize that since he was there to save her, its her fault. This is a viewpoint that she never truly seems to recover from, and helps cause her downward spiral.
  • An episode of Baywatch had Mitch experiencing a series of near-fatal accidents that coincided with an Australian lifeguard joining the crew. It turns out that years ago, while Mitch himself was working in Australia, he failed to save a drowning woman—the man's wife.
  • The Bold and the Beautiful. After Macy Forrester dies in a drunk-driving accident, her friend Clark irrationally blames her sister-in-law Taylor, feeling that if Taylor had helped Macy, this wouldn't have happened.
  • An episode of Chicago Fire has Mills (a firefighter-turned-paramedic) try and fail to save a young man from overdose. The guy's father blames Mills for his death. Later, he comes to the firehouse and apologizes, but he's actually planning to have Mills kidnapped and killed. When that fails, one of the thugs he hires spills the beans, and the father is jailed.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • The UnSub in the episode "Hanley Waters" was a woman who had been involved in a car accident one year before. The paramedics had managed to save her, but failed to save her six-year-old son.
    • Another episode had an unsub blame the surgeon who didn't operate on his son, even though the son's condition was inoperable and it's indicated that that decision was made before ever reaching the surgeon. Because he instead operated on a Hispanic man who did survive, the unsub threatens to kill a random Hispanic man every day until he's able to kill the surgeon's son so that he'll know the same pain.
  • CSI: NY:
    • In season 4, Mac is accused of this by the younger brother of a childhood friend he had failed to save when he was 14 yrs old back in Chicago.
    • In season 9, in a case more like "Failure to Save = Abuse," an arsonist is proven innocent which gives him the strength to have a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on his family for all the abuse he suffered in childhood, including his foster sister whose only crime was being seven and too scared to do anything.
  • In Grey's Anatomy the doctors fail to save a woman and they must take her off of life support, as she signed a DNR years earlier. Her husband blames the doctors and comes back to the hospital for revenge months later, shooting up the place.
    • It doesn't help that Shepherd comes off as a bit of a jerk when he orders her to be taken off life support. Later, when the guy sues the hospital (but before the killing spree), he is further inflamed when Shepherd reveals that it took him only a few seconds to determine if his wife would ever come out of the coma. Sure, it might make sense from a medical viewpoint, but not to a grieving husband.
  • In an episode of ER, Mark is unable to save a patient's life. The boy's brother is completely convinced that Mark deliberately let the kid die because of racism and refers to him as a murderer.
  • Two examples in NCIS:
    • Tony saved a young boy from a fire as a recent college graduate. Said boy becomes an arson investigator, but is sore at Tony for not saving his sister as well. (Tony says that would have likely killed all three of them, since trying to get past the burning wreckage separating the two of them from the girl would have taken a great deal of time they might not have had.) Small subversion in that said arson investigator doesn't go axe-crazy; the team (and the audience) are just worried he has.
    • Harper Dearing blames the Navy and NCIS for the death of his only son because they failed to stop a terrorist attack; he carries out a vendetta against them, blowing up their headquarters.
  • Smallville's version of Metallo hates Clark because he didn't save his sister when her apartment burned.
  • The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager does this to himself after Ensign Harry Kim and Ensign Jetal are injured, with both having an equal chance of survival, baffling his triage protocol. He chooses to work on Harry and, as he finishes the surgery, Jetal dies. He proceeds to grapple with the idea that he let Jetal die because he was closer to Harry than her.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Villain Miss Information in Sentinels of the Multiverse holds the game's main superteam, the Freedom Five, responsible for her own death. As Aminia Twain, she had been the Freedom Five's devoted secretary, but in the heat of battle, the team was unable to save her, instead saving a group of other civilians. After her death, she reawakens in another timeline — the 'main' timeline — where that battle hadn't taken place and plots revenge.

    Video Games 
  • This happens in AI: The Somnium Files on the Annihilation Route's ending. After Iris and Ota Matsushita are killed by So Sejima, Mayumi angrily blames Date for Ota's death, and refuses to cooperate any further with his investigation.
  • In Corpse Party (PC-98), most of the deaths involve either Yoshiki or Satoshi either abandoning one of their companions after seeing them endangered or otherwise failing to take some action to prevent it. Afterwards, they feel immense guilt over their actions and lament their cowardice.
  • Brought up in Devil Survivor 2 when you receive Keita's death clip. While the characters are resolved to save him, Joe mentions that you technically have the option to do nothing and let the death come to pass as foretold, and idly wonders if that might count as killing him.
  • Disgaea:
    • In Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, Kurtis' family got killed and he personally holds Captain Gordon accountable for this, even though the latter wasn't involved in this in any way. As far as Kurtis is concerned, though, Gordon didn't do his job as a Defender of Earth and should be replaced.
    • Disgaea 4 does this on a much larger scale with Judge Nemo. Though Artina, the only person to show him kindness, was killed by her own country, he blamed Valvatorez for not saving her or avenging her death (Due to Artina asking him not to do so in the case of the latter). It eventually escalates to the point where he blames ALL of humanity as well as demons and angels.
  • In DragonFable, Konnan swears vengeance against your PC for failing to save his family and hometown from the dragon Akriloth (though in all fairness, the battle against the dragon in question wasn't winnable anyway). This would eventually lead him to join the evil pyromancer Xan and become Drakonnan, the Big Bad of the Fire War.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: Hope blames Snow for his mother's death after she volunteered to help Snow's resistance faction fight despite Snow trying to save her and also falling off of the same bridge moments later. Hope plans revenge for quite a while, only to be interrupted before he can stab Snow by a missile attack which causes both of them to fall to their near deaths. Snow's insistence on protecting Hope (as he'd promised Nora) at his own expense, and the revelation of how deeply he blames himself for her death, finally prompts Hope to forgive him.
  • In Heavy Rain it's heavily implied that Grace Mars blames Ethan for their son Jason's death -even though he jumped in front of the car to save him and was in a coma for months. While it is true that Ethan accidentally let him wander off for those few crucial seconds, he did everything he possibly could to save him after that initial mistake.
  • This is part of a character's backstory in Hometown Story. It combines the two variations as the would-be murderer is the "feels guilty for the accident" variant, leading him to not deny killing the victim when her family assumed he had (actively) killed her.
  • Dustil Onasi's motive in Knights of the Old Republic: He joined the Sith out of resentment because he believed his father had abandoned him and his mother to die...even though it was the Sith who killed his mother in the first place.
  • A variant occurs in League of Legends's "Confessions of a Broken Blade" story, where Yasuo (mis-blamed for the death of his elder) realizes that Riven killed the elder accidentally when she asked him to destroy her sword. Since he left the elder unguarded that night, he acquits Riven and blames himself per this trope, despite hints in the story that he couldn't have reacted quickly enough to save the elder.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd, the main protagonist Kevin Graham feels that he was responsible for his mother's suicide since he ran away rather than trying to help her, despite being a child at the time.
  • This is how Rean Schwarzer feels in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II after accidentally killing a guy who was wanting to commit Suicide by Cop on him, by having someone best him in combat.
  • In Mortal Kombat X, both Kung Jin and the undead Kung Lao call Raiden out for standing around and doing nothing while Kung Lao had his neck snapped by Shao Kahn in the previous game.
  • Takuro accuses Hiroshi of this in Nira Oni after the monster goes after Hiroshi and poor Mika, and they can't find the latter afterwards.
  • In Oxenfree, Clarissa feels this way about Alex. Clarissa was dating Alex's older brother Michael, and they had plans to move away from home together. Alex convinced Michael to stay with her for one last trip, and the two went swimming, only for Michael to accidentally drown. Because Alex was present but unable to save him, Clarissa blames and hates her for his death.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Admiral Bobbery suffers from the second variation of this trope, after learning that his wife Scarlette passed away while he was on a voyage. He blames himself for it, thinking that he could have nursed her back to health if only he wasn't at sea at that time. He then vowed to never sail the sea again, filled with grief and regret. Mario manages to take away his pain however, by showing him a letter that Scarlette wrote with her last breath to prevent Bobbery from feeling guilty about her death.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners:
    • If you fail to save certain companions, Ayuto grapples with guilt over not being able to save them.
    • Dr. Kuroe also expresses some remorse at not being able to do more. Should Saori commit suicide, Professor Tsuchida goes out of his way to twist the knife, stressing how much they must have suffered during their demise.
    • During the climax, it's revealed that Professor Tsuchida personally blames his assistant Kuroe for the death of his daughter in the Luxor Massacre one year prior — believing he had the ability to do so, but not the willpower.
  • Tales of Symphonia:
    • Chocolat acts this way towards Lloyd after an enemy tells her Lloyd killed her grandmother Marble. She forgives him later on when the prisoners of the Iselia Ranch tell her that Marble was transformed into a monster and Lloyd tried to save her. Lloyd appears to feel this way himself as well, as he takes the villain's accusation in shame without ever revealing what really happened (nobody killed Marble-turned-monster, she came to her senses and self-destructed to allow Lloyd and Genis to escape the Desians).
    • A similar case occurs with Kuchinawa, who blames Sheena of killing his parents by being unable to control Volt, even if she was merely a child at that time and unable to understand Volt's speech ("It's just like before! What the hell is he saying?"). He hides this grudge at first, but gives in to it after Sheena actually manages to make a pact with Volt and multiple other Summon Spirits during the game. Sheena has to set him straight again by fighting a duel with him. Interestingly enough, his brother Orochi insists that the tragedy was an accident and that Sheena should not feel responsible and accept the duel.
  • In Vagrant Story, Rosencrantz accuses Ashley Riot of killing his own wife and son as part of a scheme by Ashley's superiors to turn him into a more loyal Riskbreaker. It's never clarified if this is the case, or if the antagonists are trying to use Ashley's guilt to undermine his exponentially-growing power, and ultimately Ashley decides that it doesn't matter.
    • Hell, it's not even clear if that was his family, or if it's a family he killed on an assignment.
  • In Wing Commander II, Zack "Jazz" Colson allies with the Mandarins to take revenge on the Tiger's Claw crew for letting his brother die when the Kilrathi attacked Goddard.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: This is one of the Dark Secrets Monokuma threatens to reveal. Mondo Oowada once challenged his brother Daiya to a motorcycle race. During the race, Mondo rode recklessly and would've been hit by a truck if Daiya hadn't thrown him out of the way and been hit himself. No one ever learned of the race's true outcome, but Mondo blames himself for Daiya's death saving him.
  • The entire motive behind Godot/Diego Armando's quest for vengeance against Phoenix Wright in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations is that he blames Phoenix for Mia Fey's murder. Mia was actually killed by Redd White because she was investigating his blackmail empire, and Phoenix's only involvement was not being present when she was killed (and he didn't even know that Mia was looking into Redd White), and defending her sister Maya from White's Frame-Up. At the end of the game, he realizes that he actually blamed himself for her murder (though he had an even better excuse for not being there, as he was in a coma at the time) and was projecting his anger on Phoenix so he wouldn't have to face that truth.
  • Your Turn to Die: Kanna was thrown into a Death Trap with her big sister. Unfortunately for both of them, she wasn't able to figure out how to free her before time ran out, and blames herself for not being able to save her.

    Web Comics 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Anthony Carver, a surgeon, couldn't prevent his wife Surma from dying and believes his daughter Antimony AKA Annie hates him for "killing" her mother. It turns out his wife was dying because she's half fire-elemental and her fiery-half MUST migrate to her offspring, killing the mother in the process and while Anthony knew this he believed he could save her with medical science (he doesn't put much stock into the supernatural, never mind that Gunnerkrigg is next to a magical forest and his circle of schoolmates included the aforementioned half-fire elemental, a sorceress and Brunhilda, daughter of Odin). He's also wrong about Annie: God help you if you even hint her father might be no good, plus she didn't know she's "not completely human" and when she learned the truth she thought she "killed" her mother.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The Dragon Redcloak threatens to have a group of prisoners killed Deader than Dead unless the paladin O-Chul coughs up some critical information — information that O-Chul does not have, although Redcloak insists otherwise. O-Chul's "refusal" to talk infuriates Redcloak, who calls him a callous savage willing to let innocents die, but O-Chul flatly rejects the hypocritical attempt at guilt-tripping and says the blood will be on Redcloak's hands. Ultimately, Redcloak spares the prisoners and later admits to a subordinate that the event convinced him O-Chul really didn't know anything. For their part, the prisoners also reject Redcloak's attempt at spin, and far from resenting O-Chul for "abandoning" them are instead deeply inspired by his resistance under pressure.
    • The trope comes up again much later when Roy is tussling with another villain (vampire Durkon), who tries to prey on Roy's feelings of guilt over the death of his younger brother as a child, pointing out that Roy had known his father could be careless and should have done something to prevent the tragedy. Roy tries to protest that he'd been just a child, but it's clear the attack is getting to him. However, "Durkon" overplays his hand by asking a needlessly gruesome question about the aftermath, which doesn't send Roy into the Heroic BSoD he'd been aiming for but instead convinces him the vampire he's speaking to isn't truly Durkon at all.

    Western Animation