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Murder by Inaction

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"I watched Jane die. I was there, and I watched her die. I watched her overdose and choke to death. I could have saved her, but I didn't."
Walter White, Breaking Bad

A convenient way to deal with someone you want dead is to simply not save their life when a situation arises in which their death is inevitable.

Killing is messy. You have to deal with those pesky murder charges, or go to the effort of engineering a convenient "accident" or "suicide" to avert suspicion, or clean up the crime scene to hide your involvement. But as fate would have it, if your foe winds up in a fatal position and you are their only means of survival, all you have to do to kill them... is nothing at all.

In Real Life, this concept is called the duty to rescue. According to The Other Wiki, the failure to offer help for those in need isn't usually considered a crime (because of the can of worms that opens when you punish someone for "not doing anything"), but there are countries where people are obligated by the law to come to the aid of those in life peril. In France for example, abandoning a helpless person can earn you a prison sentence of up to five years. On the other hand, you cannot be prosecuted for a bad first aid, precisely for the reason to prompt people to help those in need no matter what, unless it would endanger their own lives as well. Of course, an exception is made for on-duty emergency workers, law enforcement, and military personnel, where failure to act is to violate your duty. It can also be your duty because of your relationship to the person: parents have a duty to rescue their minor children. Failing to act is also generally punishable if you're in some way responsible for creating the dangerous situation in the first place.


Compare Do with Him as You Will, Make It Look Like an Accident, Never Suicide, and Throw 'Em to the Wolves. Contrast Accidental Murder and Save the Villain. If the victim is murdered actively by a character and another character does not intervene, it's a case of Accomplice by Inaction or Betrayal by Inaction depending on the case. Contrast/Compare Failure-to-Save Murder where someone is held responsible for a death because they tried and failed to prevent it, and Bystander Syndrome when people in general don't help the victim. Is often the Face–Heel Turn for a character. Most of the time it is not a Moral Event Horizon however unless the perpetrator contributes actively enough into this to be considered indirectly culpable. This is often a favored tactic of the Technical Pacifist. Contrast Save the Jerk, where the hero might not like the person, but still goes out of their way to save them.


As a Death Trope, all spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 7 Seeds:
    • During the Final Test, a group of girls takes Ayu, whom they have been bullying, along with them and uses her as their cook. They decide they want to eat something with chopsticks and make them out of a tree's branches, while Ayu makes her chopsticks out of a different tree's branches. While eating, the girls end up dying from poison and blame Ayu for this, who calmly tells them that they were the ones that made their chopsticks from a poisonous tree-type.
    • When Team Summer A awakens in the future and realizes that Usami is their chosen guide, they enact their revenge on him and all, except for Ban, shoot him non-fatally. Usami tells Ban to use his medical knowledge and save him. Ban states that his medical skills are lacking and Usami is left to die. It's Played for Drama, though, as Ban is shown to already have been distraught over not being able to save more people during the Final Test and might not have meant malicious intent with leaving Usami.
  • Dragon Ball Z: During the Frieza Saga, after Vegeta takes a mortal wound from Krillin as part of a plan to have Dende heal him and receive a Zenkai boost, Dende initially refuses to do so and is fully prepared to let Vegeta die since Vegeta was just as evil as Frieza and had killed numerous Namekians himself. Ultimately subverted when Gohan, Krillin, and Piccolo persuade him to do so since they need Vegeta to stand a chance against Frieza.
  • In Fairy Tail, Loke/Leo ends up being accused of this crime. He and Aries were Celestial Spirits in the service of the cruel Karen Lilica, and to save Aries from Karen's wrath, he switched places with Aries, and gave Karen an ultimatum- he'd remain in the human world and refuse to help Karen until she canceled both their contracts. Karen was initially confident that since Leo couldn't remain in the real world forever, he'd soon be forced to give up, but he lasted longer than she expected. In the end, Karen became desperate since, without her spirits, she couldn't work as a mage, and she eventually went on a job anyway and got herself killed. The Celestial Spirit King blamed Loke for his mistress's death and banished him until Lucy successfully pleaded his case, saying that he'd only been protecting his friend Aries.
  • Hell Girl: One episode shows Leon Yamada. He is a special example of a Barbaric Bully because he beats weaker classmates and robs them. He also attacks and injures adults. Besides, he has joined a criminal gang and tries to run over a puppy. When he makes an accident with his scooter, the three teenagers who are his most frequent victims see it. They go to him, but leave him lying without helping him, so that he will die as a result of the traffic accident.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?: Three evil adventurers try to do with Liliruca. They belong to the same familia, and have mistreated the young girl for years. Eventually, they leave her as bait for monster ants while fleeing themselves. But Bell can save her. And shortly thereafter, these three adventurers are killed by a minotaur.
  • Now and Then, Here and There: At the very end, Abelia watches while King Hamdo's palace is flooded and he drowns. In this case, it's half this trope half The Dog Bites Back since Hamdo certainly had it coming, but Abelia's face makes it clear she's still rather conflicted over it.
  • Yuureitou: This turns out to be the real way Tetsuo's adoptive mother died: she was tied to the clock tower by a killer after the treasure within, but since she'd abused Tetsuo for his transgender identity as a child (including leaving him to die in the trap-filled labyrinth beneath the tower until he pretended to cry 'like a real girl'), he simply stood and watched. Tetsuo himself makes no attempt to claim it wasn't murder, telling the cops he'd killed her and using it as a reason that Amano shouldn't be his friend.
  • Overlord: What primarily leads to Erya Uzruth's death, even if Hamsuke was the one who dealt the death blow. Did he really expect his elf maidens to use their magical powers to save him when he was so clearly outmatched?
  • Naruto: The novel Itachi Shinden: Book of Dark Night reveals that this was how Shisui Uchiha gained the Mangekyou Sharingan. He was on a mission with a close friend, who fell behind fighting the enemy forces. Shisui was jealous of said friend's talents and intentionally decided not to help him, resulting in his death.The guilt of realizing what he'd done was what awakened the Mangekyou in him.
  • Trigun: Discussed. Legato points out to Vash that by his unflinching refusal to kill anyone, no matter how evil or dangerous, he is in fact responsible for the deaths they caused. He ultimately makes his point in an inversion of this trope, forcing Vash to actively kill him in order to save someone else.
  • Fruits Basket: Near the end of the series, Kyo reveals that he's responsible for the death of Kyoko, Tohru's mother. He was there the day she was hit by a car and could have pushed her out of the way, but doing so would have led to him transforming in a busy street and exposing the Sohma curse, so he stood by and did nothing. The grief and guilt over his role in the accident haunts him to this day, especially since he mistakenly believes Kyoko died hating him for it.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: In issue #633, Robin (Stephanie Brown) dies due to torture and Batman later discovers that Dr. Leslie Thompkins deliberately withheld treatment that could've saved her life but chose not to in order to teach the kids of Gotham a lesson about superheroing. After massive backlash, this was retconned into Thompkins making Batman think that Stephanie died when she was actually smuggled out of the country. (Then it was retconned even further into Batman and a few other adults in Stephanie's life being aware too, and everyone dancing around the Open Secret for complex psychological and political reasons...)
  • The Batman story Knightfall has Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael do this while assuming Batman's identity. When the villain Abattoir is left dangling above a vat of molten steel, Jean-Paul is torn between fulfilling his duty as an avenging knight and killing him, or rejecting it and saving his life. Instead, he chooses neither and leaves Abattoir to eventually fall to his death — which also dooms the hostage he had hidden away. After Bruce recovers and learns about this, he realizes he can't trust Valley with the Batman identity anymore.
  • Marshal Law: At the climax of the "Kingdom of the Blind" story arc, Law is very much capable of helping the Private Eye up rather than let him fall to his death. Watching from across the room, Law jokingly insists he "can't quite reach" as the Private Eye struggles and eventually falls.
  • Superman: In Let My People Grow, Brainiac gets accidentally hit by his size-changing ray and is shrinking rapidly and uncontrollably. He begs Supergirl to save him, but she refuses to: her enlarging ray has only two shots left, which she plans to use on her cousin and the Bottle City of Kandor, and she is NOT wasting energy on him. Even Superman pleads with her, but Kara doesn't cave in, and lets Brainiac disappear. Reviewed here.
  • Catwoman: The titular character once deliberately refused to rescue Black Mask from falling to his death from a penthouse. Since Black Mask had spent the last several issues doing horrible things to her friends and relatives and had just tried to torture her to death, this could probably be forgiven. Unfortunately it didn't work.
  • Green Lantern: Sodam Yat hated the xenophobia of his homeworld Daxam. It reached a peak in his childhood when he befriended an alien named Tessog that had crashlanded on Daxam. Sodam's parents brainwashed Sodam and murdered Tessog. Sodam realized the truth after seeing his friend's stuffed corpse in a museum. He repaired his friend's ship vowing to leave the planet forever when the Green Lantern ring appeared and gave him another out. Years later, when the Sinestro Corps attacked Daxam, Sodam seriously considered leaving the planet to its fate.
  • Spider-Man 2099: In Miguel's first encounter with the 2099 version of the Vulture, the Vulture's wings had failed and he was plummeting towards the pavement. Miguel prepared to shoot a webline to catch him...then decided not to. This was the first of many scenes wherein it was made clear that this Spider-Man is not your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

    Comic Strips 
  • For Better or for Worse: In Michael's book Stone Season, the heroine suffers constant abuse and suffering at the hands of her cruel, controlling husband. In the climax, she goes out to search for him after he spends too long out on a ride, and finds him lying in the snow, injured. She simply turns around and heads home without him, leaving him to die.

    Fan Works 
  • In Dear Diary, Prima suggests that the team leaves Blair to die when he is trapped under a pillar in the Desert Resort. Gnash calls her out, saying it's no different than murder, while most of the other team members disagree with her decision for various other reasons.
  • Hellsister Trilogy: In chapter 31 of "The Apokolips Agenda", Superman and Supergirl coerce Lex Luthor and Dr. Sivana into cooperating with the heroes by threatening to go away and let Darkseid kill both villains. When Sivana claims that heroes always Save the Villain, Supergirl quietly says that she's killed before and will again.
  • Defied in Hope for the Heartless when Avalina has the chance to escape the wounded and unconscious Horned King, but she decides against it because if she leaves him to die, she'll be just like him.
  • In crossover fanfiction In Brightest Day, Diamond Tiara comes up with a plan to kill off her classmates by separating them from the group and having the Black Lanterns pick them off one by one, essentially keeping their hooves clean of any actual murder.
  • Kara of Rokyn: A variant in that it happens after the villain has passed away. After Lex Luthor has just died, Supergirl recalls she managed to bring him Back from the Dead once. For a brief second, she considers trying to revive him again... and then she decides against it because Luthor squandered his second chance with his many attempts on her loved ones' lives.
    There were only so many times mercy could be shown.
    Sometimes, it was a greater mercy to withhold it.
  • In a sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, when a seven-year-old Misty accidentally falls into the pool and ends up in danger of drowning, she fears that even if her mother hears her cries for help, she'll deliberately ignore them and call her death "a terrible accident". Fortunately, her bloodliner powers kick in allowing her to breathe in the water, and she manages to get out by herself.
  • In Son of the Desert Edward debates with himself on letting Scar kill Roy since Edward knows that he wouldn't be blamed for it considering that Scar is a notorious Serial Killer and Edward himself barely escaped being killed. He hates Roy for killing his maternal Ishvalan relatives and had fantasized about killing him. In the end, he can't bring himself to do it and saves Roy's life.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Supergirl story The Vampire of Steel, Buffy takes over Kara's body in order to slay Zol-Am. Kara doesn't like but she doesn't attempt to take control back as Buffy kills the Kryptonian vampire off.
  • In Peggy Sue fanfiction Warp, Victoria Dallon is convinced that in the original timeline Amy let her boyfriend die out of jealousy because she stalled at healing Dean until it was too late to save his life.
    "I can't read minds," he said. "But... yeah. There's a lot going on there. I kind of talked to her about it on Thursday, but she pushed me away. I'm not her favorite person, but she needs help."
    She let you die, I thought. There was time. She could have saved you.
  • In Winter Storm, Sombra correctly guessed the new Changeling Queen would betray him eventually, so he simply allows her to be overpowered during her Beam-O-War with Luna.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Corpse Bride, Done more or less by most of the characters both and living and dead to Lord Barkis who should know better than drink from a glass of wine the dead brought just because he couldn't resist some Evil Gloating and wanted to have the last word. Nobody could stomach him getting away with his crimes and thus nobody felt the least bit sorry when he got his.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: As Kuzco and Pacha cross a rickety old bridge on their way to the palace, Pacha falls through and ends up tangled up in the ropes. Rather than help him up, Kuzco leaves him there, saying that it's better than imprisoning him in a dungeon as per his original plan. This backfires immediately when he too falls, forcing the two of them to work together to save themselves.
  • Frozen: Attempted by Prince Hans when he first chooses to withhold a potentially life-saving Almost Kiss from Anna, since an act of true love would save her from freezing to death from Elsa's magic (although said act is eventually done by Anna, not for Anna) then leaving her to succumb to her frozen heart. You could argue that he also sped up the process by extinguishing flames, but ultimately, it was a choice not to save, rather than to kill. His kiss probably wouldn't have saved her anyway since he didn't love her, but it's clear that the way he almost does it and then turns away is mostly to rub it in.
  • Toy Story 3: Rather than save the toys from being roasted by the incinerator by pressing the emergency stop button to shut off the conveyor belt, Lotso instead decides to abandon the toys even after they risked their lives to save him.
  • In The Lion King, it seems like this is how Mufasa is going to die: after luring Simba into a ravine that the hyenas are going to drive a herd of stampeding wildebeest through, it looks as though all that Scar will need to do is sit there and gloat after Mufasa gets Simba to safety but can't save himself without Scar's assistance - but Scar, prideful, treacherous and sadistic to the end, can't resist the opportunity to Kick the Dog and throw Mufasa off the cliff anyway.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman: The title character leaves Jesse Kane to his death, despite the pleas of his son David. Given that Jesse responded to Aquaman's offer of mercy with an attempted backstab, he is right to give up on him. Unfortunately David Kane survives the ordeal and becomes the infamous Black Manta.
  • Batman Begins: Batman uses this as a loophole around his "no killing" rule to dispose of Ra's al Ghul, who's caught on an about-to-crash train. The waters are muddied even further by the fact that he had James Gordon ride the Tumbler (a tank-esque Batmobile) and take out the bridge supports ahead of the train to cause said crash, and in that all of this was ultimately caused by Ra's, including Bruce becoming Batman in the first place since he all but orchestrated the Wayne murders in this version of the story.
    Batman: I won't kill you... but I don't have to save younote .
  • The Fifth Element: Subverted. Immediately after Zorg gives Cornelius a diatribe about survival of the fittest and the necessity of destruction, he starts choking on a cherry pit. Cornelius takes some time to point out the irony, but ultimately thumps him on the back to save him. Zorg, who before and after this scene would show he'd kill people for the crime of getting on his bad side, chooses to allow Cornelius to live and leave unharmed for this (if still throwing him roughly to his goons to be escorted out).
  • Gladiator: After Maximus disarms Commodus in the arena, Commodus immediately starts demanding one of the surrounding Praetorian Guard to give him a sword. If he hadn't recently and publicly dishonored his own royal guards, they might have.
  • Johnny Belinda, although this example might be just straight-up murder. Locky's fight with Black by the edge of the cliff ends with Black slipping off the cliff, scrambling for a foothold. Locky stands and watches as Black slips off the cliff and falls to his death.
  • Ju Dou: Jianshan's deeply disturbing death. It is clear that Tianbai, then a child of elementary school age, didn't mean to knock Jianshan's wheelchair into the red dye vat. But as Jianshan flails around, his dead legs dragging him down, Tianbai watches. And smiles. And laughs.
  • Killer Toon: Mi-suk's mother suffers from a horrible facial disfigurement (cause unspecified) that includes among other things a missing eye, ghastly scarring, and holes in her cheek. Mi-suk, sick and tired of being a social outcast because of her mother, writes that she wishes her mother were dead. Mom finds her daughter's journal and hangs herself—and seconds after she kicks away the chair, Mi-suk walks in and finds her mother strangling to death on the rope. Instead of doing anything to help her mother, Mi-suk steps back and watches her die.
  • Kiss of the Damned: Irene, the vampires' servant, comes across Maia crawling toward the house to get in from the sunlight. She ignores Maia's pleas that she help, lighting a cigarette from her burning body and watching her die. As Maia is a serial killer, it's hard to care though.
  • Leave Her to Heaven: Ellen follows in a boat as Danny, Richard's disabled brother, goes for a swim, then sits back and puts on her sunglasses to watch as he flounders, calls out for her help, and sinks below the surface of the lake, all because Richard was paying attention to Danny, and not to her.
  • My Cousin Rachel:
    • Rachel says she's going to be walking along a route that Phillip knows to be dangerously unsafe because the carpenter told him the bridge has not been finished yet. He doesn't say anything. She falls to her death.
    • In the remake, Phillip suggests that Rachel go riding along a route where he himself nearly fell to his death earlier in the film. Sure enough...
  • George Eastman, the protagonist of A Place in the Sun plans to kill Alice, girl he made pregnant by arranging a boating accident because her death would free him up to be with his true love. He can't bring himself to kill her, but the boat still capsizes accidentally, and George does not try to save Alice.
  • Sabretooth: Catherine callously kicks away a badly wounded survivor of the monster's attack on the cabin as the woman begs for help and then doesn't tell anyone else about seeing her, so they won't abandon the search to get the hurt woman medical attention.
  • Star Trek VI: Kirk is infuriated to find he has been nominated to extend "the first olive branch" of peace to the Klingons, who can no longer afford to maintain hostilities with the Federation. Kirk has hated the Klingons outright ever since they killed his son and when Spock attempts to persuade him that it's the right thing to do he replies "Let them die."
  • Reversal of Fortune: One of the possible solutions to the mystery of what happened to Sunny is that her husband failed to give her aid after an attempted suicide.
  • Saw: John Kramer adamantly insists he's never killed anyone in his role as the Jigsaw Killer; he merely puts them in Death Traps, and the traps kill his victims because they failed their tests. Of course, since he knows the traps are fatal to those he puts in, that doesn't make much of a difference. Eric Matthews puts it best in Saw II:
    Eric: I don't know what [the cure for cancer] is, but I know it's not killing and torturing people for your own sick fucking pleasure.
    John: I've never murdered anyone in my life. The decisions are up to them.
    Eric: Yeah, well, putting a gun to someone's head and forcing them to pull the trigger is still murder.
  • Tormented (1960): When Vi is hanging from the broken railing of the lighthouse, begging Tom Stewart to save her, he starts to move in, and then decides to just stand idly by and watch her fall to her death. He makes a half-hearted attempt to move in once she's already plummeting.
  • Tristana: When Don Lope is having a heart attack, Tristana pretends to call the doctor but never actually lifts the receiver. Then she kind of moves onto Murder By Action when she opens Don Lope's window to the bitter winter cold.
  • In Count Yorga, Vampire, the Count is walking through the grounds of his castle talking to an old priest, who accuses the Count of being a vampire and killing several people (which is all true). The Count dismisses these accusations, and continues walking and talking with the priest, until they get to a section of boggy ground. The Count (being a vampire) does not fall into the quicksand, but the priest does. As the priest sinks under the bog begging for help, the Count admits to being a vampire, shies away from the cross that the priest holds up, and then watches from a distance doing nothing as the priest disappears and drowns.
  • Zone 39: The narrative makes plain that by covering up the water contamination continuously in the titular Polluted Wasteland, the corrupt Commander-in-Chief Tito has knowingly sentenced a portion of the populace to death.

  • Old joke used with any Acceptable Professional Targets: If you saw a lawyer and a politician drowning, and you only had time to save one of them, would you go to lunch or read the paper?

  • Isaac Asimov's "Little Lost Robot": (Discussed Trope) Dr Susan Calvin immediately conceives of this danger when informed of the modifications to the NS-2 robots. Some of the models had their First Law were modified to say, approximately, "A robot may not harm a human being", which omits "...or through inaction, let a human come to harm". Dr Peter Bogert dismisses the idea that a robot with this modification can kill, and Dr Calvin then describes a robot dropping a heavy weight above a human, knowing that its quick reflexes will allow it to catch the weight in time to not harm the human; but then, having dropped the weight, it has the ability to decide not to stop the weight from killing the human. Dr Bogert is now almost as worried as he should be.
  • In Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None:
    • The Rogerses were accused of murdering their former employer by withholding her medication for her heart condition, which led to her death when she got a cardiac arrest.
    • Vera Claythorne is accused of letting her lover's nephew Cyril swim out to sea, despite knowing that he wasn't strong enough to swim that far out without drowning, so that he would die and his inheritance would pass on to her lover. She did swim out after him later, but it's left ambiguous if she had a too-late bout of genuine remorse or was just trying to make it look like she did try to save him (the 2015 BBC adaptation shows her very deliberately waiting long enough for him to drown before she swims out after him).
  • In the Dragonlance series this was the final step of Lord Soth's Slowly Slipping Into Evil descent. He had been tricked to believe that his second wife Isolde (who he had first gotten together with while still married to his first) was cheating on him and went to confront her when he should have been going to stop The Cataclysm. While he was doing this said Cataclysm began and caused a chandelier to fall on Isolde and their child. She begged him to save them, but he just stood by, and with her last breath Isolde cursed him. The castle itself was destroyed, but Soth rose as a Death Knight.
  • Dragon Bones:
    • Ward is asked about how his plan will affect his uncle. (As things are, his uncle could be killed by the villains). He, sarcastically, replies that the death of his uncle is just what he needs, now. To his shock, Oreg actually believes him, and is angry at him for the next few days, until Ward can bring himself to talk about the topic again.
    • Played straight earlier, when the nobleman Landislaw comes to him and wants help in recapturing a slave he lost, and who doesn't belong to him, and whose disappearance could cause Landislaw to be killed by the disgruntled owner. Ward says he doesn't care, slavery is wrong, and he never liked Landislaw anyway.
  • In Dream Park, a security guard with a cold is knocked out, tied up, and gagged. He is later found dead of asphyxiation, and it is believed that his running nose killed him. Subverted when he was murdered by a person he was blackmailing, who just had to pinch his nose shut long enough for him to suffocate.
  • Gordon Korman: A sympathetic version occurs in the final book of the Dive trilogy. Privateer James Blade and his cabin boy Samuel are the only survivors of their ship. Samuel is clinging to the ship's floating figurehead and Blade is injured and barely able to stay above water. Blade's actions are responsible for the deaths of their shipmates, he murdered the entire crew of the Spanish galleon they just overtook and killed Samuel's best friend in the first book over a breach of discipline. Samuel turns the figurehead away from Blade and paddles towards the shore, leaving his captain to drown.
  • Discussed In Masques: the heroes are in a kind of rebel camp, and there are two nobles who are pretty useless and only cause problems. They jokingly discuss the option of feeding those nobles to a dragon (they're male and their virginity is questionable, but it may be worth a try), or let them be eaten by the undead abominations. Or just fall down a hole in the caves the rebels are hiding in. They don't do any of those things in the end, as, after all, they're still the heroes.
  • Night Watch (Series): In Twilight Watch, Anton notices a subtle flaw in Well-Intentioned Extremist Kostya's plan that will make it fail in a manner that will kill Kostya. Anton keeps the information to himself while the plan goes forward.
  • Redwall: Ungatt Trunn dies when, after surviving being thrown into the sea with a broken back, finds himself stranded as the tide comes in. Then his much-abused former seer shows up to gloat, not doing a thing to get him out of the rising water.
  • In Raven In The Foregate, one of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael mysteries, it turns out that the victim wasn't murdered (by being hit on the head and thrown in the river) at all. The sole witness simply didn't help him when he slipped on some ice, hit his head on a tree stump, and slid down the riverbank unconscious.
  • How Clyde finally kills Roberta in An American Tragedy — she accidentally falls overboard from their boat, she can't swim, and Clyde simply doesn't save her.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Many people counsel the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch to abandon the wildlings behind the Wall to be killed by the Others, due to the difficulty of saving them and their historical status as enemies of the Night's Watch. During one attempt to convince them why this is not a good idea, he points out that the Others raise the dead, and they're proposing giving their enemy thousands of soldiers.
    • House Frey learns a universal truth: don't try to really piss the neighbours off after decades of being pains, because they might just ignore you when you actually do need real help to not die of insurgency on all fronts... Since they are going to; buy popcorn to silently munch as they consider how lands and titles will be divvied up afterwards, offer heckled "advice" from the sidelines to you, offer real advice to those undermining you and/or critique the performances of the oh-so tragic Frey victims as they get killed. Right in front of them or relatives of them. Rather than, you know, help the decades-long problem family out of the Hate Sink hole they've definitely helped dig themselves.
  • In Sphere, Norman decides to abandon Beth and Harry to their fate by rationalizing how much trouble they've become and how their fears have almost killed him. It's only when he realizes that he's manifesting his own worst fear, the fear that he doesn't care about anyone besides himself, that he turns back and saves them.
  • In the short story "Sweat" by Zora Neale Hurston, Delia's abusive husband gets bitten by the same snake he used to threaten her with. After some deliberation, and realizing he'd die even if she did go for help, Delia just sits under the chinaberry tree and waits for him to die.
  • In Alexandr Grin's The Scarlet Sails
    • Menners refuses to aid the half-starved Mary whose husband is away on a long voyage and who also has a baby daughter to feed (or rather he agrees to help, but not for free). It leads to Mary going to a pawn-broker several miles away in a terrible storm, catching pneumonia and dying.
    • Mary's husband Longren gets his revenge when in another terrible storm several years later Menners' boat is carried off to sea and he cries for Longren to save him. Longren calmly stands on the shore and reminds Menners that Mary had pleaded too. Menners doesn't drown but gets frozen to death.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Tigerclaw attempts to murder Fireheart in this way at least two times: in Fire and Ice, Tigerclaw lets Fireheart nearly be killed by Leopardfur; in Forest of Secrets, Fireheart falls in a river and nearly drowns while Tigerclaw watches, but Longtail saves him.
    • In Mapleshade's Vengeance, Mapleshade believes the deaths of her kits to be this: Frecklewish was watching to make sure Mapleshade left the territory when exiled, saw them swept into the river, and left. Frecklewish said she'd seen RiverClan warriors on the other side, and assumed that they'd be saved and she never wanted them to die; this is also what she told her own Clan. It's not clear if Frecklewish was lying or not, as we're limited to Mapleshade's POV and she was only aware of RiverClan once they pulled her out of the water.
  • The first death of the quest in Below happens when the easy-going Tibs alone notices that carnivorous jellies have followed the party, and Dex is closest to the door. He claims to have a very good reason for killing Dex, which is well-known to seemingly everyone but the protagonist. Others who learn that it was not an accident swiftly agree it was justified.
  • Cassie Dewell: In Badlands, a Hate Sink enforcer for The Cartel falls through a frozen pond in the middle of the night during a police chase. The deputy pursuing him hears his scream for help, radios the sheriff for orders and is told to tell the freezing killer that they'll come back for him in the morning (although, given how fast the guy freezes to death, they probably couldn't have saved him in time anyway).
  • In the original novel of The Last King of Scotland, Idi Amin's personal doctor is being pressured by British Intelligence to assassinate him. He balks at this violation of the Oath, but hedges that maybe if it was a matter of denying Amin proper treatment...
  • Seen near the end of The Elenium. Princess Arissa, aunt of Queen Ehlana, is about to be killed by the heroes just as her son and lover have been (all three are guilty of treason, murder, and other serious crimes), and she performs a sort of Kill Steal by drinking poison. A few minutes later, however, she changes her mind and begs the mage Sephrenia to save her. Sephrenia has the skill and the power to do so, and is normally an extreme pacifist who can't stand to see anyone in pain; but she decides to make an exception for Arissa, and leaves her to her fate.
  • In the young adult novel Twins by Caroline B Cooney, Mary Lee discovers that her twin sister Madrigal and her boyfriend had a bonding moment when they stood together on the shores of a lake and watched a man drown.
  • The Heroes of Olympus has the minor villian Octavian. He joins forces with an army of monsters to attack Camp Halfblood. He wants to kill the Greek demigods simply because they are Greek and not Roman demigods. When he is too close to a catapult, even his first officer does not warn him, so that Octavian will be fired with the catapult.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On 24, President David Palmer asks his ex-wife to deal with a powerful supporter who is blackmailing him. She goes to his house to speak with his wife, and gets in an altercation with him. The argument triggers a heart attack, and Sherry convinces the wife to withhold his heart medication, and the two watch him fall over dead.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In the episode "Nothing Personal", Deathlok threatens to torture Agent Ward to death if Skye won't decrypt the secret files for him. Since Ward has been revealed as a HYDRA mole, Skye resolves to let him die. She can't go through with it.
  • Babylon 5: JMS must like this trope since it appears multiple times in the series.
    • When an explosion leaves Londo and G'Kar stranded in an elevator, G'Kar cheerfully invokes and attempts to follow through with this trope, much to Londo's displeasure. He doesn't mind dying himself, if it means that Londo dies under circumstances that won't trigger Centauri reprisals against other Narns. However, G'Kar winds up as the one displeased when the elevator car is rescued at the end of the episode.
    • Out of jealousy, Lennier's final act on the show was to leave Sheridan behind a locked door, in a room being flooded with toxic gas. Subverted, in that, A.) he has a change of heart and goes back to correct the mistake, and B.) he returns to find others have arrived to save the day, and is forced to go on the run.
  • In The Boys (2019), Homelander's decision to abandon the hijacked Flight 37 is treated as a Moral Event Horizon for the guy, and justifiably so, but his reasoning for writing it off as a loss is pretty sensible. The pilots are dead, so the plane is going to crash unassisted, he isn't trained to fly a plane, and even if he was, the controls were destroyed in the scuffle (admittedly, by him), he doesn't have the Required Secondary Powers to use his Super Strength to right the plane manually without ripping it apart, and he can't evacuate over 120 passengers in a matter of minutes. What pushes it into "irredeemable" territory is that he refuses to save anyone, under the logic that if word gets out that he failed here, his career as a superhero is over, and furthermore, he is completely unbothered at the idea of leaving them to die.
  • Breaking Bad: Walt watches Jesse's girlfriend, Jane, choke to death on her own vomit (she'd shot up with heroin). Jane had earlier demanded Walt fork over some drug money and threatened to rat him out. Made worse in that Walt had inadvertently moved Jane on to her back when he tried to wake Jesse up, and thus indirectly caused her death as well as refusing to prevent it. He later makes a deliberate point to tell Jesse this, something that is widely viewed as one of his worst deeds due to the sheer pointless cruelty.
  • A villainous example can be found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ancient vampire Kakistos fights against the two slayers Buffy and Faith. And while a vampire of his age is capable of defeating a slayer, two slayers are too strong for him. Mr. Trick, his chief subordinate who also happened to be frustrated trying to the boss to embrace modern society and conveniences, sees that his master will probably lose the fight if he and some of the other minions don't jump in to help... and declares it a damn shame the boss wasn't more open to his ideas as he casually turns away from the fight, leading the others with him.
  • On Chicago Fire, Firefighter Cruz tries to get his brother Leon out of a gang led by the ruthless Flaco. At first, Flaco seems okay with it, but it ends with Leon being beaten. In a later episode, Flaco is caught in an apartment fire. Cruz finds him, Flaco begs him to save him, but Cruz leaves the room and leaves Flaco to his fate.
  • Criminal Minds: In the season 13 premiere Wheels Up, Luke Alvez gets into a firefight with Peter Lewis, aka Mr. Scratch, the B.A.U's nemesis for multiple seasons, that ends with Lewis dangling from a collapsing fire escape. After all he's done, Lewis has the gall to beg Alvez to pull him to safety: Alvez just gives him a look of disgust and lets Lewis plunge to his death.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation had an episode where a suicidal man jumped in front of a car and was embedded in the windshield. The driver, wanting to avoid charges for driving drunk, left him to slowly bleed out. The final insult to the driver as he's being charged is that if he'd saved the man's life, no charges would have been pressed due to the suicide note.
  • ER: Dr. Greene once found himself alone in an elevator with the abusive father of children that he (Greene) had helped get removed from their father's custody, and the father had gone on a shooting rampage, intending to kill Mark's wife and daughter. The patient went into cardiac arrest, and Mark allowed him to die while setting off the defibrillator to make it seem like he was attempting to save him.
  • Game of Thrones: Halfway through the first season, Viserys barges into a "whore's feast" completely drunk, and threatens to cut out his sister Daenerys's baby from her womb if Khal Drogo doesn't "give him his crown". After Drogo seemingly agrees, with Dany saying that Viserys will have "a golden crown that men shall tremble to behold", he has Viserys seized and melts his gold belt in a pot to "crown" Viserys. Viserys tries to plead with Dany, but she stands by and says nothing when Drogo returns, says, "A crown for a king!", and "crowns" Viserys by pouring the now-molten gold over his head, killing him.
  • Resoundingly defied by Jim Gordon in one of the turning points of his characters and Gotham as a whole. He can just hand big-time criminal Theo Galavan over to the Penguin and let him have his way with him and never see his face again while neither witnessing anything or incriminating himself. Does he do that? No, true to himself, he determines that by violating his code of conduct as a cop he would be as guilty as the Penguin and chooses to take as always the responsibility upon him to make sure both that Theo is executed and that his torture won't be prolonged as it would surely otherwise be.
  • One episode of The Guest Book has Jenna Fischer as a therapist who rents Froggy Cottage as part of an experiment. She takes an Alzheimer's patient there to see if recreating his past life will help him regain his memories. It works, but he then starts to revert to his life as a Klansman. Later, she discovers he once burned down a church and killed a black man in the process just before he starts an old pickup truck in the garage and asks her to go with him to church. When she and her assistant realize the garage is slowly filling with exhaust fumes, they leave him to gas himself.
  • Law & Order: UK: In the episode "Samaritan", based on the original Law & Order episode "Manhood"note , a homophobic policeman is discovered to have essentially killed his (gay) colleague by not getting him any help when he was shot (the courtroom section of the episode is mostly based around proving he was there and deliberately didn't do anything).
  • Luther: The biggest source of blackmail against Luther comes from the opening scene in the pilot when a child molester nearly falls to his death while fleeing capture. Instead of helping the molester back on his feet, Luther lets the man fall to his death.
  • Medium: In one episode, a young Allison has visions about one of her friends. She sees that, by knocking on his door, she will stop him from killing himself, and many years later he will rape and murder teenage girls. So a few days later, she decides to not interrupt his suicide.
  • Midsomer Murders:
    • In "Death in Disguise", a death initially assumed to be natural causes turns out to be this. The victim suffered a heart attack and was calling for his medication, while the other present refused to give it to him, and stood by and watched him die.
    • There's one where a snobby wine lover is tied to his lawn while the murderer is catapulting wine bottles at him. His wife is brought to the window and sees the whole thing (though the murderer remains unidentified). When she sees the bottle miss, she calls out corrections to the murderer. The next morning, the police arrive but she of course didn't see anything. Downplayed in that the wife probably couldn't have saved her husband if she'd wanted to (she was wheelchair-bound, and her wheelchair had been disabled), but she certainly had the mindset of this trope.
    • "Birds of Prey": one Asshole Victim is a middle-aged man who lives with and horribly abuses his Maiden Aunts. So, when he comes home bruised after being hit by a car, one aunt realizes he's much more badly injured than he thinks, but puts him to bed and leaves him to die in his sleep.
  • Monk: In "Mr. Monk Meets His Dad", Ben Glaser starts to cut Kenneth Woods' tie loose when it gets caught in a running semi engine, then stops. (The two were co-owners of the same trucking company, and had just found evidence that Ben was defrauding the company by buying used parts and pocketing the difference.) However, Ben ultimately kicks Kenneth's feet out from under him, just to be on the safe side.
  • Nashville: Teddy watches as Lamar Wyatt has a heart attack. He begins to step forward to help, then stops, not even calling 911. Lamar dies.
  • Orphan Black: Suspecting Aynsley to be her monitor (erroneously), Alison does nothing to prevent Aynsley from accidentally strangling herself with a scarf and a drain grinder.
  • Person of Interest: At the end of the episode "Reasonable Doubt", John decides the POI and her husband just aren't worth saving, and leaves a gun for the husband to even the odds in allowing them to kill each other.
  • Primeval shows Oliver Leek. He is gathering an army of Future Predators and controlling them with technology from the future. Nick Cutter annihilates this technology and simply leaves Leek to the predators without helping him.
  • In the first episode of the Vendetta season of Strike Back, Colonel Alexander Coltrane allows a henchman to bleed to death, having recognized him as a war criminal he clashed with when he was a lieutenant.
  • An episode of The X-Files shows the wealthy owner of a settlement that terrorizes its inhabitants with a tulpa. When Agent Mulder arrests him and ties him up so he can not escape, the tulpa comes up to him. He asks his neighbors to help him. But the woman says that he now gets what he deserves and goes away with her husband.
  • On Xena: Warrior Princess, this is how Xena originally killed Callisto; they tumbled down a hill, Callisto landed in quicksand and Xena simply let her sink. She got better, though. Multiple times.
  • On The Walking Dead, several characters end up killed this way by being left to the walkers.
  • In the Korean Drama Who Are You?, Jang Yeon-hee's prospective mother-in-law really, really did not approve of the impending marriage between Yeon-hee and her son Park Woong-joon. So much so that when Yeon-hee goes into an asthma attack after a nasty argument with Mama Park, Mama Park holds onto Yeon-hee's asthma medication and watches her die.
  • Why Women Kill: After finding out that her husband Rob caused their daughter to be killed and lied to her about it for years in addition to cheating on her and planning to leave her, Beth Ann creates a plan to murder him and help her friend Mary be rid of her abusive husband Ralph at the same time. They make it look like Rob and Mary have been having an affair and plan to elope. A furiously jealous Ralph arrives at the house and fights Rob, gun in hand. Beth Ann throws Rob his own gun, but when he tries to shoot Ralph in self-defense, he finds it empty. Cut to the bullets stored away in Beth Ann’s drawer. Ralph shoots Rob, who dies, but not before Beth Ann whispers to him that she knows the role he played in their daughter’s death.

  • In Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away" a young girl gets rid of her abusive father by taking refuge in the storm cellar (and locking the door from the inside) while he’s passed out drunk and there’s a tornado headed straight for the house.
    She heard those sirens screaming out.
    Her daddy laid there passed out on the couch.
    She locked herself in the cellar,
    Listened to the screaming of the wind.
    Some people called it taking shelter.
    She called it sweet revenge.
  • Tanya Tucker's "No Man's Land" is about a young girl being raped, growing up to be a nurse, and seeing that one of her sick patients is her rapist. She denies him medical aid while he begs for mercy and leaves him to die in prison.
  • A popular Urban Legend surrounds the Phil Collins song "In The Air Tonight". The legend usually involves someone watching someone else drown and being unwilling to help along with several other variations. In actuality, the song was about Collins' divorce.
  • In Eminem's "Stan", Stan refers to the above Phil Collins rumour during the third verse, relating it to his own situation: by this point, the lack of reply from his beloved hero has driven Stan to commit murder-suicide. In the sequel song, "Bad Guy", Stan's younger brother Matthew sets out to get revenge on Eminem, believing that Eminem committed this trope by way of not responding to his brother's letters.

  • Episode 2 of In Strange Woods has characters speculate that Howl let Jacob die after making his initial call to the police, only confirming that he found the boy when it was too late. In the past, Howl let his uncle and seven others die because he didn't tell anyone about the cracks in the fuel drums, even though it was his job.

  • In Lillian Hellman's 1939 play The Little Foxes (later made into a 1941 film starring Bette Davis), Horace decides to cut his evil wife Regina out of his will, and tells her so. Shortly thereafter he feels a heart attack coming on and asks Regina for his pills. She does nothing, instead watching as he collapses. He dies a few hours later without changing his will.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: Seymour tries to shoot Orin the Depraved Dentist, but can't bring himself to. Moments later, Orin gets himself high inside a mask full of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) but finds he can't get it off and begs Seymour to help him get it off (while he laughs maniacally.) Seymour just stands by and Orin suffocates.

    Video Games 
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • General consensus is that Batman kills the Joker after the events of Batman: Arkham City. Granted, Batman was stabbed in the shoulder by the Joker, causing him to drop the only cure to the Joker's sickness, but random chatter in the post-game of City and throughout Batman: Arkham Knight make it clear that nobody sees much of a difference.
    • In Arkham Knight's "Season of Infamy" DLC, it's possible for Batman to do this. The end of the League of Shadows mission sees Batman given the choice between saving a feeble Ra's al Ghul, or letting him die of old age without the Lazarus Pit. It seems throughout the mission that Batman is considering the latter option for the greater good, but is worried it will break his one rule. Alfred even asks Batman beforehand "is not saving someone really the same as taking a life?"
  • Amnesia: Justine: The player character is presented with the option of doing this three times as a Secret Test of Character given to you by the title character, the Ax-Crazy Justine - who is the amnesiac Player Character.
  • Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes has a darkly amusing meta example. On Chapter 15 of the Scarlet Blaze route, Count Varley, Bernadetta's Abusive Parent, will come under attack, with defending him becoming a side objective. Letting him die won't fail the chapter, the only negative impact it has is triggering more reinforcements. Given Bernadetta and Hubert's reactions if this happens, the player is practically encouraged to fail this objective on purpose.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you came across a prisoner who's going to be executed by the militias, in order to maintain your low profile in a stealth mission, it is wiser to remain silent and let him die. You may try to save him but he'll immediately be killed by the militias and your cover will be blown.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: The Ghost team deployed in Russia is about to take out the leader of the coup in Moscow when they're ordered by the US government to take him in alive. The coup leader laughs as he thinks he's getting off scot-free-until they all hear the sound of an oncoming train, at which point he begs the team to save him. Ghost Lead refuses, telling him "our orders were not to touch you."
  • Loghain's betrayal at Ostagar in Dragon Age: Origins basically amounts to this. Instead of performing his part of the battle plan, which involves attacking the darkspawn from the rear while King Cailan, his forces, and the Grey Wardens are busy on the front lines, he sounds a retreat and returns with his forces to Denerim, leaving the King, Duncan, and everyone else to die at the hands of the darkspawn.
  • Heavy Rain:
    • Norman Jayden can do this if he fights the Origami Killer in the end. The alternative is to save him and then kill him.
    • Shelby can also do this to Charles Kramer by not giving him his pills while he's having a heart attack.
  • In Ghost Trick, when Sissel speaks to Lynne after she dies and tells her that he saw a video feed of her shooting him, Lynne comments that he could easily get back at her for it by simply leaving her dead. Sissel has no intention of doing that, however.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Mass Effect: The Council mocks, questions, and otherwise screws you for most of the game, even colluding with Udina to ground your ship on the Citadel. At the climax, you have the option to leave the Citadel fleet and the Destiny Ascension to be annihilated fighting the Geth fleet, allowing the Alliance to ride in and mop up the remnants and take down Sovereign. The dialogue tree option literally says, "Let the Council die!" Later, a renegade Shepard has the option to claim he/she was waiting for a chance to get rid of them all along, prompting a shocked response from Anderson and a smug response from Udina. However, this option also causes 10,000 people to die and can result in worsened relations between humanity and the other Council races.
    • Mass Effect 2: In Jacob's loyalty mission you have the option to leave Acting Captain Taylor to be presumably maimed and killed by his feral crew. Why? He set his mechs on you and his crew, brainwashed several of them to be mindless guards, forced most of the crew to worship him like a god, and passed around the female crew members like sex slaves between officers. His abuses are so unacceptable his own son recommends you kill him or leave him to die.
    • Mass Effect 3: The Renegade method to achieve peace between the Geth and Quarians is to tell the Quarians that you're sick of helping them out like you did in the past and that if they attack the soon-to-be-upgraded Geth, they will die and you will not stop it; they will then get the hint and abandon the attack. This option does, however, require a fair bit of preparatory choices going back as far as Mass Effect 2 to be available (as is the more Paragonic alternative to reconciling the two sides).
  • In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Huey Emmerich leaves his wife Dr. Strangelove to suffocate in the A.I. Pod she gets sealed into after she tries to stop him from placing their 2-year-old son in Sahelanthropus. When she realizes she's never getting out she begs him for a quick death, but he just leaves. When her corpse is found later Huey tries to claim she committed suicide, but at this point his credibility has been shot to hell by his pathological lying so no one believes him.
  • In Until Dawn, this leads to a possible death for Chris. If you earlier chose not to save Ashley in the death traps or tried to shoot her with the gun, she will refuse to open the door when Chris is being chased by Wendigos and will watch him die instead.
  • Persona 4:
    • After Nanako's apparent death, the entire Investigation Team is so outraged at Namatame for his role in it that they seriously consider just tossing him into the TV world and leaving him to be ripped apart by the Shadows within as revenge; doing so leads to the Bad Ending. In The Animation, Yu very nearly does just that before managing to stop himself.
    • When the true killer is revealed to be Tohru Adachi, he adamantly insists to the protagonists that he himself didn't kill Ms. Yamano and Saki; he merely threw them into the TV world and let the Shadows do it for him. Of course, some of them point out that since he had some idea of what would happen to them when he did so, that doesn't make much of a difference. The party later averts this trope when Adachi asks them to leave him in the TV world to die after he loses to them since they want him to pay for his crimes.
  • Persona 5: Ichiryusai Madarame, representative of Vanity of the Seven Deadly Sins, lives up to his namesake when he lets a woman die so that he can steal her painting and adopt her young son Yusuke, whom Madarame uses to make paintings that he passes off as his own. When this fact comes out, Yusuke loses any reason to forgive Madarame for his sins and attacks him.
  • Metro:
    • There are a few instances where this can happen in Metro 2033. In particular, on the Frontline mission, you can find a pair of Red Line officers interrogating an apparent deserter, who tells them that he was merely investigating a rumor about a shortcut behind the Nazi line, after which they kill him anyway unless you kill them first. Letting the man die makes you lose a moral point while saving him gains you one, so there's incentive to do if you're trying to get the "good" ending. On the other hand, letting him die and then allowing the officers to walk away is preferable if you're trying not to kill anyone, which is required to get the achievement/trophy "Invisible Man" (and also gets you a moral point if you do go through the entire level without killing anyone).
    • Metro: Last Light: One of the last levels in the game culminates with fighting Pavel and a bunch of communist soldiers in Red Square. After you wound Pavel and compromise his gas mask, the Little Dark One shows you his memories and then you're taken to a hellscape where the souls of the damned in the surrounding area start trying to drag Pavel in with them while he begs you for help. If you take too long getting to him or choose not to help, he dies; if you help him, he simply passes out and you replace the filter on his mask. Letting him die gets you the "Revenge" achievement/trophy, but it also practically guarantees that you'll get the "bad" ending.
  • Injustice 2: Wonder Woman, Superman, and Damian all accuse Batman of this, pointing out how his adherence to Thou Shalt Not Kill enables psychopathic villains like Brainiac or the Joker to just keep on killing.
    Robin: You coward! We are at war with these animals! You think you're better than him!? You let the Joker keep on killing! You couldn't save Lois, or Jason, or ANYONE!
    Wonder Woman: None of us wanted this. But the Joker forced our hand. Metropolis changed the world. Now WE have to change with it!
    Superman: Metropolis and Coast City are gone. How many more innocent people have to die before YOU accept that some lives need to be TAKEN?!
  • In the DLC for Tomb Raider: Underworld, Lara Croft manages to take control of her doppelganger that was sent after her by Natla. Lara orders her clone to "make sure Natla suffers as long as possible" and then tells her to be independent and have free will while not taking orders from anyone anymore. Lara's clone then returns to Natla, who was wounded earlier, and is ordered to help free her from the debris. The clone simply stands there and watches with a devilish grin on her face as Natla starts to drown under the blue muck rising from the ground.
  • Vampyr (2018): The player can opt for Jonathan to do this when he finds out that Dr. Swansea was responsible for the Skal epidemic in London. Considering the latter was mortally injured, Jonathan can leave him to die because of the severity of his act, straight up drain him or turn him into a vampire as a Cruel Mercy. Keep in mind the first one keeps your "Not Even Once" run clean, but allows the district to fall into chaos, the second one gives you extra XP on top of ruining your run and the district, and the third one preserves your run, the district albeit at a huge cost of your XP, but backfires because Swansea regards his new condition as a blessing and now the district is at the hands of a vampire Mad Scientist. So basically, there is no good option.
  • It's revealed late into Your Turn to Die that Keiji Shinogi refused to prevent his superior officer Megumi Sasahara from being ripped apart by chains.
  • Hollow Knight: The achievement "Neglect" is obtained by not attempting to save Zote from the jaws of a Vengefly. You can only get it if you return to the place in Greenpath where the Vengefly was and whack what remains of Zote with your nail.

    Web Animation 
  • In the ASDF Movie deleted scenes, Superguy refuses to save a man hanging from a cliff, leaving the man to fall to his death.

    Web Comics 
  • Acheron says this of the elves in Inverloch when—after it becomes clearer and clearer that elven society is isolationist, arrogant, selfish, and hypocritical—he learns that his father was killed by an elf for the offense of... being mad that the elves had reneged on their word to protect the da'kor. Lei'ella, an exiled elf who's herself pretty disgusted with them, delivers a What the Hell, Hero? for his willingness to let the entire race die (including the girl he undertook the quest for in the first place) just because the ones in charge are terrible. In the end, the elves are saved but are forced to recognize and reform their ways.
  • The Order of the Stick: When the Faux Affably Evil Thieves Guild leader Bozzok is being beaten to death in front of Grubwiggler, one of the people he's extorting for protection money, he gets a very clear explanation of why no help will be forthcoming:
    Grubwiggler: I'm sick of your banal little guild's petty intrigues interfering in my magical research. All I want is to be left alone, and I suspect your eventual successor will be more willing to accommodate that desire. ...Farewell, Bozzok. You were never as clever as you thought you were. [Teleports away, leaving Bozzok behind]

    Web Video 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Following the scene where Krillin has mortally wounded Vegeta (as Vegeta requested), Dende is understandably unwilling to heal him on account of his partaking in the Namekian genocide. He reluctantly does so when Piccolo points out how screwed they are without Vegeta's assistance.
  • In Sword Art Online Abridged, Kirito almost does this when he comes home to find Suguha choking on a muffin, but to his own disappointment has undergone too much Character Development to go through with it.
    Kirito: (thinking) This is it... this is the icing on my cake! A lifetime of physical and psychological abuse, brought to a swift and satisfying end! All I have to do... is nothing! I mean, this is just Darwinism at work! As long as I don't hand her this lifesaving juice that I am currently handing her NOOOOOOOOO!!

    Web Original 
  • In Dream's Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters Finale Rematch, the Hunters are in the Nether fortress and Dream is chasing Sapnap, when all of a sudden Sapnap gets stuck fighting two wither skeletons while cornered. Dream just watches this happen as Sapnap begs him for help.
  • In the Dream SMP, during the Red Banquet, Quackity didn't save Foolish from being executed by the Eggpire because he wanted to recruit Foolish to join Las Nevadas and "teach" him to embrace violence again, though this isn't revealed until after the incident. Foolish calls him out on this when he learns about it.
    Foolish: You threw away my life for some kind of fucking sales pitch?!

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • In a flashback showing parts of Roku's life, Sozin leaves Roku to die when the latter accidentally inhales toxic fumes from an erupting volcano, realizing with the Avatar out of the way, Sozin can proceed with his plans of world conquest unopposed.
    • In the season one finale, Zuko considers doing this to Admiral Zhao when the latter is attacked by the (giant, enraged) spirit of the oceans. After a moment's consideration, he holds out a hand to save Zhao, but the admiral refuses to allow his rival to save him, and is swept away to what was presumably his death. It turns out Zhao should have taken Zuko's hand since he reappears in The Legend of Korra's second book as a wanderer in the Fog of Lost Souls for killing the Moon Spirit, which has driven him to insanity.
    • Avatar Kyoshi let Chin the Conquerer fall to his death when she split her home island off from the mainland. Aang points out to her towards the end of the series that she didn't actually kill him, to which she replies that she sees no difference between letting him die and killing him because she was willing to kill him if that was what it took to stop his reign of terror.
    • Kyoshi’s friend Yun got killed in her tie-in novel by his earthbending teacher, Jianzhu, in the same manner. Yun was believed to be the Avatar, so Jianzhu offered them both up to a spirit to see who it truly was. He chose to save Kyoshi once it was confirmed that she was the real Avatar but left Yun to be taken by the spirit, fully expecting it to kill him. Yun ambiguously Came Back Wrong at the climax, just to return the favor, a lot more directly.
  • Bojack Horseman: It's eventually revealed in Season 6 that not only did Bojack wait seventeen minutes to call 911 when he discovered Sarah Lynn was dying from a heroin overdose at the planetarium in order to create an alibi for himself and make sure the police didn't discover he was the one who gave her the heroin in the first place, but that she didn't actually die until after EMS arrived and tried to save her. There's no way to know for sure whether immediately calling for help would have made a difference, but once a couple of reporters discover the incident and make it public, almost everybody, including many of Bojack's close friends and family, considers this trope to be in effect. He manages to avoid serious legal ramifications for that (the worst that happens on that front is that Sarah Lynn's parents sue him for his involvement in her death and he has to give them 5 million dollars for the settlement), but he becomes a pariah in Hollywood and among the public at large as they're all disgusted that he was willing to let somebody die to save his own ass. Even his friends (except for Mr. Peanutbutter) keep their distance from him, and Hollyhock cuts him out of her life in response to what happened.
  • It is implied in The Dragon Prince that Viren acted so that Harrow get killed. Harrow was the king, and Viren was his wizard, and at the same time his only friend, or at least his oldest and closest confidant. When Harrow learns that elfish assassins want to kill him, Viren offers him to save his life with dark magic. But Harrow, who for some unknown reason does not want to have anything more to do with dark magic, reacts very gruffly. He forces Viren to kneel in front of him while humiliating, taunting, and offending him. When the elven assassins finally defeat the king's bodyguards, Viren does not move a finger to rescue Harrow. He even stops Callum from coming to the aid of the king. Later, General Amaya also accuses him of allowing the elves to kill Harrow so he can become king himself. It should be mentioned explicitly that it is unknown if Viren could have fended off the elven assassins because they were simply very good assassins. But because Harrow treated him so badly, of course, Viren did not do anything to protect him.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Send in Stewie, Please," Stewie lets the preschool therapist he was talking to slowly die from a heart attack because he doesn't want his secrets getting out.
  • Subverted in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Sinestro uses something like this trope as a defense when his actions result in the in-custody death of Naraxis ("I didn't kill him, I just didn't save him"), but it's revealed to the viewer that Naraxis's death was anything but inadvertent; Sinestro actively manipulated events so that Naraxis would die, and actually gloated about it to the guy as he suffocated, making it just straight-up murder.
  • Justice League:
    • In "Twilight", Darkseid shows up in the Watchtower and asks for the League's help since Brainiac is attacking Apokolips. Superman, having suffered a lot at Darkseid's hands and expecting that Darkseid has an ulterior motive, only says, "Good." Superman turns out to be right.
    • In "The Enemy Below", Aquaman confronts his evil brother Orm who stole the Trident of Poseidon, tried to overthrow him, and put him and his baby son near a submarine volcano to kill them both off. When Orm ends up hanging over an abyss during their last fight, he shamelessly begs Aquaman to save him. Aquaman just picks up his fallen trident while coldly saying "I believe this is mine" and lets him fall.