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Sickbed Slaying

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This won't hurt a bit...

Someone is too close to finding out the truth. Or perhaps he or she knows too much for their own good. For whatever reason (possibly an earlier not-quite-successful murder attempt), this person has been seriously injured or gotten ill and is now lying defenseless in a hospital bed. An assailant slips behind the hospital staff and quietly sneaks into the hospital room with intent of killing the patient. Sometimes they succeed. Sometimes they don't.

Scarily enough, there are cases where this is Truth in Television. There's even a criminological term for medical personnel who use their access to incapacitated people to become serial killers: angels of death.

Can overlap with Vorpal Pillow (suffocation with a pillow depicted as a much faster and quieter means of death than it actually is). May overlap with Make It Look Like an Accident, especially if performed by a doctor or a member of the nursing staff. May also overlap with Slain in Their Sleep, if the slaying is done while the victim is still unconscious.

Compare with Coup de Grâce, Dude, She's Like in a Coma, Room Disservice, Sitting Duck, and Slain in Their Sleep.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Barely averted in Aldnoah.Zero. Princess Lemrina starts to cut off the life support system that keeps her comatose older half-sister Princess Asseylum alive, so she can effectively "replace" her... but backs off at the last minute and re-starts the system because even if Asseylum is "her puppet" and at her mercy, they're still sisters.
  • Digimon Universe: App Monsters: The backstory features the evil AI Leviathan attempting to murder his creator Den'emon Shinkai in ways that would Make It Look Like an Accident. Leviathan ultimately got Den'emon when he fell ill and had to be hospitalized; Leviathan tampered with the machinery, killing Den'emon.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
    • When nobody is able to kill the Major in combat, they try something else and send an assassin to kill her when she gets her cybernetic body replaced and is nothing more than a Brain in a Jar for a few minutes. Then the assassin looks away just long enough for the Laughing Man to plug her back in...
    • Several villains do this to a police detective in "The Fortunate Ones: MISSING HEARTS".
  • Happens to Rally in Gunsmith Cats. No outside assistance, and indeed she was never more than half-awake as she shot the assassin down and threw the bomb under her pillow out the window.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, when Bruno Bucciarati was a child, his father was shot 7 times by two criminals when he saw them making a drug deal, but he survived and was taken to the hospital. When the men came back to finish the job, Bruno was waiting under his father's hospital bed and killed both of them.
  • Naruto:
    • Pre-Heel–Face Turn Gaara tries this with Rock Lee, but is stopped by Shikamaru and Naruto. Of course, Lee didn't know any particular information. Gaara was just nuts enough to want him dead. More specifically, Gaara couldn't comprehend why Gai would risk his own life to protect his protégé, when Gaara's own mentor tried to kill him. Rather than try to confront the fact that other people have love and he doesn't, he decided to remove the reminder.
    • Kabuto attempts this with Sasuke. Then Kakashi gets in the way. We still don't know exactly what Kabuto's motives were.
  • Wolf's Rain: Lady Hamona was left comatose from Paradise sickness, an illness that took her soul, which was caused by contact with her lover, Darcia III, due to his curse. Darcia had an advanced life-support system that kept her body alive, but Hamona's older twin sister, the ruthless and cruel Lady Jaguara, was also in love with Darcia, angry because he chose to love Hamona instead of her, and Jaguara became a Yan Dere over him. Jaguara grew jealous of her sister, and therefore killed Hamona while she was sick. Darcia was utterly heartbroken.

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd: Notorious Serial Killer PJ Maybe attempts to assassinate a hospitalized Chief Judge Sinfield by using his Sexbot companion Inga to infiltrate the hospital room disguised as Judge Hershey. Bonus points in that Sinfield was hospitalized in the first place for narrowly surviving a previous attempt on his life. This one becomes a failure as well when Judge Dredd bumps into the robot and quickly realizes that it's not the real Hershey.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special: Computo 2 attempts to murder Supergirl while she is lying unsconscious in the Legion HQ's infirmary, first by sabotaging the attempts to find a cure for her illness, and later by manipulating the powerful monster Validus into attacking her.
  • Averted in Union Jack. Union Jack needs Arabian Knight's sword in order to fight off a Darkforce-powered villainess, but Navid is still recovering from a concussion. Navid states that he can't simply loan the sword, because its magic only works for its rightful owner, and suggests that Joey kill him on his sickbed so that he can become the rightful owner and use the sword. Joey decides to find another way.
  • In the 14th album of the XIII series, Danger to the State, Irina Svetlanova disguises herself as a nurse and attempts to do this to the main protagonist.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dick Tracy: Worried that the wounded test pilot Maay will reveal his role in his schemes, Mr. Bribery and his sister Ugly Christine eliminate him by machine-gunning in his hospital bed.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Gunslinger Girl fanfic Death in Scampia, Triela kills a sickly Camorra boss in his bed, but thinks he'll be dead anyway in a few months so wonders why the Agency even bothered to send her.
  • Touched on in Dungeon Keeper Ami and featured following Ami's first real battle as a Keeper (commanding her forces, as opposed to adventuring alone like a hero). The battle against the Keeper Malleaus is a grueling contest of attrition and leaves her utterly exhausted and lightly wounded. Upon her return to her own dungeon, she collapses and has to be carried to bed. Jered, a heroic adventurer she met while exploring the surface world and recruited mostly due to convenience, briefly considers killing her in this fashion, due to the fact that she is at her most vulnerable. It is a true testament to how obvious Ami's heroic nature is that he doesn't, every other instance of Keeper in the series is unapologetic evil.
  • If Them's the Rules, Buck, another kid at the orphanage, attempts to smother Tom Riddle when the latter was severely ill from a cold.
  • The Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Iron Weakened By Rust has Norway attempting to do this to Estonia after the latter gives birth to a stillborn child. Thankfully, he's stopped in time.
  • Loved and Lost:
    • A mass murder of this is committed after Prince Jewelius has stolen Equestria's throne by using the events of "A Canterlot Wedding" to turn the princesses as well as Shining Armor and Twilight's friends into public enemies. After banishing them, he has his chief minions examine the loyalties of the royal guards who were seriously injured during the Changeling invasion. After finding out that most of them are still loyal to the dismantled princesses, he orders them to be killed. The public is tricked into thinking that the victims are casualties of the Changeling invasion, a belief that's used to give fuel to the general hatred felt towards the heroes who're blamed for the invasion ever happening.
    • After Cadance — the only hero in addition to Twilight who hasn't lost the trust of Canterlot's ponies — is injured by her evil cousin Jewelius, she's imprisoned in the medical wing, with her captor having the intention to kill her while making the public believe everything was done in a doomed effort to save her. After the other heroes escape and try to rescue her, they're caught by Jewelius and Vivian when they're just outside the medical wing. The villains then attempt to murder Cadance and frame the escaped heroes for it. Fortunately, Cadance has just managed to free herself.
  • In Mass Effect: Human Revolution, the Plot-Triggering Death of Shepard takes the form of an assassin slaying her as she is laid up in hospital.
  • Attempted in the Star Wars fic Once Upon a Rebellion. After a rebel mission is sabotaged, a woman who already tried to kill Han Solo once escapes her guards after arrest and tries to kill the injured Han again by strangling him with oxygen tubing. It backfires, though, as Han has enough strength to pull her away and over the bed, and he renders her unconscious. Then,her head catches in the bed rails as he pushes her off of him and her neck breaks, killing her. He's in bad shape and needs more emergency care, but lives.
  • One Small Kindness:
    • Attempted upon Itachi by Kabuto, while he was recovering from his eye surgery.
    • Possibly Mikoto, though so subtly that one might miss it until a second read-through. Mikoto was injured severely and comatose before she died, suddenly and without warning. The cause of death is apparently mundane, but she was a known political opponent (some would even say, rival) of Shimura Danzou. And, as mentioned, Kabuto was at the hospital...
  • In the Discworld series Strandpiel by A.A. Pessimal, young witch Rebecka Smith-Rhodes runs into one of the ethical dilemmas of being a witch. Specifically, this is the situation where, when dealing with people in the last stages of life, where death is inevitable and the person's last weeks or months on Earth will be ones of pain and indignity, of how the Witch should respond to a request from the family — or more relevantly, from the dying person — concerning not prolonging the end un-necessarily. Visiting Ankh-Morpork, she seeks advice from two older wiser people. One is the Witch who sponsored her and taught her. Having discussed the ethical and moral side with an experienced Witch, she goes to her adoptive Grandmother, who teaches about Poisoning at the Assassins' School. Bekki is clear on why she needs a painless and untraceable poison for times like this. Grandmother Joan accepts she has legitimate and understandable reason for such a drug, and provides both the poison and specialised tuition.
  • This Bites!: The pre-Time Skip denouement has this happen to Vice-Admiral Strawberry. Having been hospitalized ever since the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown that Koala gave him during the Supernovas' running of the Marine blockade around Sabaody, she sneaks into his room during the chaos around the Marineford War to finish him off by means of poison.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Bullet Train The Father's son was being kept hostage while in a coma at the hospital thanks to The Prince having a mook ready to finish the job should The Father try to kill The Prince, however this was subverted when upon trying to kill the hostage the would-be-assassin was killed off by a different assassin The Elder had secretly left to defend his grandson
  • In 22 Bullets, a hitman sneaks into the hospital disguised as a doctor in an attempt to finish off Charly. However, because Charly has moved rooms, he winds up shooting some innocent who is now in Charley's old room.
  • Bullitt: A hitman sneaks into the hospital with the intent of finishing off his target but is recognized and chased off by Bullitt.
  • In Carlito's Way, the odious Dave Kleinfeld is afraid of becoming a victim of this after an assassination attempt, so keeps a gun by his bedside. Unfortunately for him, Carlito has taken the precaution of emptying the gun, so when Vinnie Taglialucci enters disguised as a police officer to avenge Kleinfeld's murder of his father and brother... well, adios, counselor.
  • Subverted twice in The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The Dark Knight: The Joker dresses up as a nurse (with hella scary lipstick) to visit a badly injured Harvey Dent in the hospital. He doesn't kill him, but his visit is enough to send Dent over the edge and make him fully embrace his new nature as the vengeful Two-Face. The Joker does, however, kill the two cops standing guard outside Dent's room.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: A few of Bane's henchmen break in to Gotham General Hospital where Gordon is recovering from gunshot wounds Bane gave him in the sewers, with the intent to kill him. This being Commissioner Gordon, he manages to turn the situation to his advantage and gets the jump on two guys, and almost gets Blake.
      Gordon: Don't forget to check your angles, rookie.
  • Death Train: General Benin orders the scientist who constructed the bombs for him (who is already dying in the hospital from radiation poisoning because of the faulty equipment Benin had provided him) to be killed to keep him from talking. Whitlock stops the assassin in time but accidentally injects him with the poison.
  • In Death Wish II, Paul Kersey enters the hospital asylum posing as a doctor to kill the final mugger who was arrested and committed there. It starts out as a struggling fight until Kersey kills him by electrocution.
  • In Dogma, Bethany saves "existence" by doing this... to God.
  • Faster: After learning that Baphomet has survived his first attack, Driver storms the hospital and shoots Baphomet while he is on the operating table.
  • The Godfather:
    • Barely thwarted in both the first and second films. In the first, Michael Corleone arrives to find the police guards have been 'reassigned'. He gets a nurse to move his father's bed to another room, then bluffs the killers by standing outside with Corleone's baker (who came to give flowers to Don Vito) and sliding a hand inside his coat when the carload of killers turn up. The killers assume the guards are still in place and drive off. In the second film, the hitman (this time working for Michael Corleone), having distracted the nurses with a cake, is about to press a pillow over the patient's face when a squad of Cuban soldiers, who have been tipped off about the hit, march in and shoot him.
    • Discussed in Part III when Michael is hospitalized following a diabetic stroke. Vincent Mancini, Connie Corleone, and Al Neri decide to strike against Joey Zasa because they know he would not let Michael survive a hospital stay.
  • The Good Nurse: Charlie is a nurse who kills his patients by injecting insulin into their IV bags.
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Angel Eyes' Establishing Character Moment has him kill a man and his son in their home, then return to the man who hired him (who's sick in bed) and kill him too because the first victim tried to pay for a counter-hit and Angel Eyes always sees a job through when he's paid.
  • In Green for Danger, Higgins is murdered on the operating table, and the murderer later tries to do the same to Freddi Linley. In both cases the method is the same: disguising a cylinder of carbon dioxide as a cylinder of oxygen, so that when the anaesthetist Dr. Barnes administers oxygen to bring the patient round, he is actually giving them pure carbon dioxide, causing them to asphyxiate.
  • In Hard Boiled, the victim is not unconscious but rather in a plaster cast from tip to toe, which only makes the murder (with a scalpel) crueler.
  • In Joker (2019), Arthur Fleck kills his mother Penny while she is laying in the hospital bed hooked up to machines due to heart failure, by smothering her with a pillow.
  • In the first volume of Kill Bill, Elle Driver disguises herself as a nurse and attempts to do this to The Bride. Fortunately, Bill calls at the last minute and cancels the hit. As he puts it, sneaking around and killing people in their sleep doesn't mesh with their warrior ethic.
  • Killshot: Blackbird, a Native American contract killer, remembers a hit on someone who was staying in the hospital. Unfortunately, he brought his younger brother along, who, when confronted by a nurse, let her live when she saw them. She immediately sounds the alarm and gets Blackbird's brother killed.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, it's hinted that Gríma did this to Théodred.
  • In the 2010 film version of Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart, which moves the location to a 20th-century dictatorship, The Weird Sisters are disguised as hospital nurses. They're first seen "taking care" of the wounded soldier who's just brought news of Macbeth's victory to the king — after the line "Get him surgeons!", they inject him with a lethal poison instead.
  • The McKenzie Break: The prisoners kill Berger, who Connor is questioning about the escape plan, while he's in the hospital.
  • The Naked Gun: In the first movie, Vincent Ludwig activates one of his Brainwashed and Crazy unwitting assassins (a doctor) to finish off the injured officer Nordberg. Frank Drebin realises something is wrong when he doesn't see the police guard outside Nordberg's room, and even more alarmed when the duty nurse informs him Lieutenant Drebin called and sent the guard home. Frank bursts into the room in time to save Nordberg... though Nordberg might've preferred Frank just let the guy finish him.
  • The Omen (1976): When Katherine is in hospital recovering from her miscarriage, she is confronted in her hospital room by Mrs. Baylock, who throws her through the window to her death.
  • Very nearly happens in Orphan.
  • In Pathology, the first person Ted murders is a Bungled Suicide on life support in the ICU.
  • In The Public Enemy (1931), this is implied to happen when Tom winds up in the hospital and some rival gangsters decide to pay him a visit. He is delivered home dead.
  • In The Rocketeer, Lothar does this to one of the mobsters who hid the jetpack, to prevent them from talking to the FBI.
  • Scanners III: The Takeover: One of Helena's assassins, disguised as a hot nurse, tries to kill Alex through lethal injection before she's interrupted by a doctor.
  • In Strange Brew, Jean LaRose wakes up in the hospital to find a strange doctor approaching him with a syringe containing a mystery substance. The "doctor" is actually bad guy Claud Elsinore, who is attempting to kill LaRose because he knows too much. Fortunately, LaRose escapes before this can happen.
  • In Super 8, done by Nelec to Woodward.
  • Telefon: A priest who's been brainwashed to commit sabotage is captured alive. A female KGB agent purchases a nurse's uniform from an on-site outfitters shop, while Bortsov (posing as a doctor) rings up the duty nurse and tells her that another nurse will be replacing her, as she's to report somewhere else. The false nurse then injects air into the IV tube of the patient.
  • In The Terror of the Tongs, Dr. Fu Chao takes the place of Captain Sale's usual doctor and attempts to kill him with a lethal injection as he is recovering from the Cold-Blooded Torture Chung King subjected him to.
  • Timecop: The protagonist's partner is recruited by the bad guys as The Mole, but becomes a loose end after they alter history to secure their rise to power. When the hero goes back in time where he left her in a hospital, he finds out that she's already been murdered by an assassin and a nurse who walks in assumes that he's responsible.
  • The Transporter: The villain visits one of his mooks in hospital and after verifying he didn't talk to the police, wipes his mouth in apparent concern, then shoves the cloth down the man's throat while squeezing his IV bag. He then attaches the heart rate monitor to the man sleeping in the next bed over, so the alarm won't continue sounding.
  • In Unknown (2011), an assassin slips into the hospital and tries to kill the hero with a poisonous infusion when the latter comes out of MRI. Of course, he fails.
  • The climax of U.S. Marshals sees the corrupt Royce attempt to finish off Sheridan, only to be stopped by Gerard, who has figured out Royce's duplicity.
  • In both versions of The Wicked Lady, Villain Protagonist Barbara slowly poisons someone who knows too much about her double life as a highway(wo)man but has promised to keep her secret, thinking she can be redeemed. Soon he's bedridden, and he and everyone else thinks she's taking care of him as he suffers from an unknown ailment. When he realizes what she's doing to him and tries to cry out to others, she is forced to use the Vorpal Pillow technique to silence him for good.

  • In the African Immortals book My Soul to Keep, David kills an old, dying woman. She was his daughter, and he wanted to see her one last time, but then killed her to keep her from telling anyone that he's still young (because he's immortal). Big mistake; David's tendency to assume that Murder Is the Best Solution will get him in lots of trouble in this book.
  • In Bored of the Rings, after the battle of Minas Troney, Farashlax is assigned a private hospital room, where he is visited by an apron-and-stethoscope-wearing Arrowroot (already now claiming the title of "true king of all Twodor"). The Ranger emerges with his apron covered in blood and explains that Farashlax succumbed to "terminal abrasions and contusions with complications" necessitating a cranial amputation, though Legolam didn't think he was wounded that much.
  • The Braided Path: Happens to Chien in The Skein of Lament.
  • Mary Gardner, the Disc-One Final Boss of The Devil's Only Friend, is an angel of death Serial Killer, using her job as a nurse to hide her kills. She takes it one step farther than the usual — she's a pediatric nurse. She's an unusual case in that her shtick both covers her ass and makes her more vulnerable. She can pass on any illness she gets, making a hospital a great place to inconspicuously kill, but also is possessed of an incredibly weak immune system, so her "work" makes her sick all the time.
  • Dean Koontz's The Door To December features a hitman sitting in his car, preparing to sneak into a hospital in the middle of the night to whack a certain patient. The next time we see him, he's still sitting in his car — with his neck crushed by an unknown assailant.
  • The Executioner: In Justice by Fire from the Able Team sub-series, a corrupt FBI agent goes to interview the sole survivor of an Able Team ambush. It turns out he's willing to tell everything about those paying the FBI agent, who notices that the food service workers in the hospital don't have any form of identification. A few hours later, a man dressed as a food service worker presses a pillow over the patient's face.
  • The Forever War: A soldier who tries to frag Major Mandella dies on the operating table (after he attempted suicide) under the care of a doctor who has a covert attraction to Mandella. Unfortunately, the suspicious timing of this death offsets the morale problems Mandella avoided by not having the soldier Thrown Out the Airlock.
  • This happens to Broderick Bode in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a Department of Mysteries employee whom Voldemort tried to use in his Evil Plan du jour, when he's given a bouquet of flowers while hospitalized at St. Mungo's. One of the flowers turns out to be Devil's Snare, which strangles him to death.
  • Averted in The Hunt for Red October. An American doctor thinks a Soviet agent attempts to do this to a survivor of the "Alpha" class submarine E. S. Politovsky by lighting a cigarette next to his oxygen tent; it's just a case of a dumb smoker.
  • Joe Pickett: In Endangered, Timber Cates pulls a Janitor Impersonation Infiltration to try and kill April Pickett while she is in a coma.
  • In Making Money, Moist briefly thinks Vetinari did this to the old and sick Mrs. Lavish to allow Moist to take control of the bank. Vetinari does not take the accusation well.
  • Millennium Series: In The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, The Conspiracy sends a guy to kill Zalachenko, who's recuperating in a hospital, as his Stupid Evil tendencies have made a horrible mess for them to clean up and has threatened to expose the entire conspiracy.
  • In The Remittance Kid by J.T. Edson, one of the anarchists sneaks into a hospital disguised as a priest and uses a pillow to smother a wounded accomplice before he can talk to the police.
  • Happens very early in A Song of Ice and Fire to Bran Stark after he witnessed Twincest between the queen and her brother Jaime Lannister. Subverted when it turns out that Joffrey arranged it as a Mercy Kill. He thought it was; nobody else did, and the act triggers a war between the Starks and the Lannisters.
  • In Trainspotting, Alan Venters rapes a girl and knowingly infects her with HIV, which she then unknowingly passes to her boyfriend. The boyfriend conceals his knowledge and initiates a fake friendship with Venters as he is dying in hospital, visiting him frequently. He then creates a set of fake photographs which appear to show the horrific rape and murder of Venters's son (the only being besides himself that he cares about) and shows these to Venters before smothering him with a pillow, filling the last moments of Venters' life with anguish.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24:
    • In the seventh episode of the first season, this happens to Janet York.
    • Inverted in season 5: an assassin sneaks into the wounded Tony's hospital room, but he's actually trying to lure Jack in there to ambush him instead.
    • Season seven's villains love this — assassins working for them kill both Colonel Ike Dubaku and Ryan Burnett this way after they've outlived their usefulness.
    • This is invoked in season eight — CTU release a news bulletin saying that the very dead Farhad Hassan is alive and has been taken to hospital in the hope that the villain will send one of his men to finish him off, who they can then capture.
    • Later in season eight, the wounded Samir Mehran is killed by an assassin disguised as an EMT as he's being loaded into an ambulance.
    • In Live Another Day, when Simone Al-Hazari is hospitalized, her mother Margot decides that she's made too big a screw-up and doesn't want to risk her spilling anything, so she sends someone to finish her, but he's quickly dispatched. What does Margot do in response? Send a remote-controlled drone to blow up the entire hospital. Jack and CIA agent Kate Morgan evacuate her in time, but many others aren't as lucky.
  • Attempted in the Angel episode "Forgiving", though for revenge rather than to silence someone.
  • The A-Team: In "Cup 'A Joe", Slater's men get Dutton to sign over the restaurant by threatening his wife and daughter and then plan to shoot him. Unfortunately for them, it turns out that they weren't talking to Joe Dutton but to Hannibal Smith.
  • The Avengers (1960s): In "The £50,000 Breakfast", a killer disguised as a doctor slips into the hospital room of a smuggler in a coma, dismisses the policeman guarding him, and administers a lethal injection.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, one of the gangsters attacked in the first episode turns out not to have been killed by Jimmy and Al and turns up badly wounded. Since Nucky is afraid he will start talking and name names, he arranges things so that his brother will smother the guy with a pillow while pretending to question him. This plan is interrupted by the FBI, but things don't go better for the patient after that, as the Knight Templar Agent Van Allen tortures him for information via Open Heart Dentistry, and he dies after giving up information.
  • The Book of Boba Fett: In "The Streets of Mos Espa", Black Krrsantan tries to assassinate Boba while he's recuperating in his bacta tank.
  • In The Borgias, Cardinal Sforza is enlisted by his family to do this to Rodrigo after the latter survives being poisoned, but he's interrupted before he gets the chance, and so far, he's ended up siding with the Borgias after all.
  • Braquo:
    • In Season 2, Antoine Bleuvenne tries to smother Commandant Marceau after learning he emerged from his coma. He fails because Marceau was already dead and the SDPJ was laying a trap.
    • In Season 3, Roxanne kills Theo by cutting off his ventilator. Given his condition, however, this was a Mercy Kill.
  • Breaking Bad: The Cousins, Leonel and Marco Salamanca, ambush Hank in a parking lot, having been sent there by Gus Fring to avenge the death of Tuco. Hank is tipped off by Gus, and thus, Marco is killed when Hank shoots him in the head, while Leonel survives, although his legs have to be amputated. To keep Leonel from talking, Gus personally brings fried chicken for every cop at the hospital, which serves to distract the cops while Mike sneaks up to Leonel's room and administers a lethal injection. Better Call Saul establishes that Mike had also killed Leonel as retaliation since Hector had used the Cousins to threaten Mike's granddaughter years before.
  • The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series regular Jared accidentally stumbles across the murder scene while the murderer is still present, leading to a nearly-successful attempt on his life. The murderer attempts to finish the job by smothering him with a pillow while he's in hospital, but flees when the machines taking his vitals alert the doctors.
  • Castle (2009): In the first season, an assassin disguised as a nurse administers a lethal poison to the IV of a patient in witness protection. Moments later, Castle and Beckett appear on-scene to arrest her. She smirks, telling them they're too late, and Castle appears to panic — only to reveal that the IV wasn't connected. "It's almost like we knew you were coming."
  • Criminal Minds: Spencer Reid gets shot in the episode "Angels" and spends most of the following episode "Demons" recovering in the hospital, attended to by Garcia. When a nurse comes in to give post-op antibiotics, they're suspicious because those drugs have already been given, and Reid outright starts to panic when the nurse identifies the drug as one they're allergic to and refuses to stop. Then they see the gun in his waistband, and the "recovery" subplot turns into a "stop the hospital assassin" subplot which culminates in Garcia shooting him.
  • CSI: NY:
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • In season 1, Christian Blake, a corrupt NYPD detective on Wilson Fisk's payroll, inadvertently gives information on Fisk's operation to Matt Murdock (Matt had attacked Blake, broken his right arm, and subsequently learned the addresses of the Russians' hideouts when they were texted to Blake's phone). Subsequently, while Blake and his partner/best friend Carl Hoffman are outside a building where Matt is holed up with Vladimir, a crooked ESU sniper working for Fisk opens fire on the cops, wounding Blake and killing two uniformed cops. Blake is left in a coma as a result of his injuries. When Blake regains consciousness, Fisk panics since Blake is probably bitter enough about being shot that he'll rat Fisk out. Fisk thus approaches Hoffman and asks him to kill Blake. Hoffman is reluctant to do the job since he and Blake have known each other for thirty-five years until Fisk threatens his life. Subsequently, Hoffman goes to the hospital, carrying a syringe inside a meatball sandwich (so that it won't be noticed when Sgt. Brett Mahoney inspects it at the door). Once inside the room, he injects the syringe into Blake's IV line. Matt shows up and knocks Hoffman out, but is unable to get anything out of Blake before he dies. The act ultimately proves to be the start of Fisk's downfall as Hoffman, bitter over having to do the deed, promptly goes into hiding and is stashed away by Leland Owlsley as insurance. Matt eventually locates Hoffman, who rats on Fisk to the FBI.
    • At the start of season 2, Frank Castle goes to the hospital to kill Grotto, who escaped Frank's earlier massacre of the Kitchen Irish. However, Grotto escapes with Karen Page's help as Frank fires on them with a shotgun, then from the roof with a sniper rifle. He doesn't stay away long as Frank captures him and kills him in front of Matt just days later.
  • Happens in the Dark Angel 2nd season episode "Harbor Lights". While Max was in the hospital, a nurse (who was actually an agent of an evil organization) tried to kill her with drugs.
  • Dexter: The titular Serial-Killer Killer's first victim was a hospital nurse who was "Mercy Killing" patients, whether or not those patients were actually dying in the first place.
  • In the unaired pilot of Dollhouse, Echo is programmed to kill Agent Ballard. She shoots him twice in the chest but non-fatally, so she defies Boyd and goes to the hospital to finish the job, grabbing a vase of flowers from a hospital admission desk as cover. Fortunately, Boyd gets the order to cancel the assassination before she carries it out.
  • Elementary: The killer in one episode turns out to be a hospital janitor with a medical degree that's not recognized in the USA, who was Mercy Killing terminally ill patients with their full consent. The exception is a victim whose doctor lied that she was terminally ill to cover up their own malpractice.
  • Ezel:
    • Serdar kills Eyşan's cancer-ridden aunt (by extension, his sister-in-law) by administering a morphine overdose, fearing what she might tell her friend Meliha the following day.
    • Cengiz tries using a Vorpal Pillow to finish Eyşan for good while she lies unconscious in the hospital. However, he hesitates too long and is forced to leave before Ezel catches him.
  • In an episode of Family Matters, Carl ends up in a hospital after being hit with a bullet during a shootout. A shooter, seeking revenge for his relative who Carl recently arrested, dresses up as a doctor and sneaks into the hospital room intent on killing Carl. Steve, who at the time was also a patient and roommates with Carl, sneaks up behind the shooter and knocks him out with the metal squatting pan.
  • Father Brown: In "The Cat of Mastigatus" the would-be killer, on discovering the victim was still alive, sneaks into her hospital room, and attempts to finish the job with a Vorpal Pillow.
  • Funky Squad: In "The Wrong Side of the Tracks", having already put gang leader Johnny in hospital with a beating, Stricklen’s goon sneaks into the hospital that night and finishes the job.
  • Lampshaded in Game of Thrones when a savvy Tyrion wakes up after nearly being killed in a Bodyguard Betrayal to find Maester Pycelle (whom he had thrown into the black cells in an earlier episode) smirking down at him.
    Tyrion: POD! [Tyrion's loyal squire rushes in] Find Bronn, or Varys. Tell them I am here with Maester Pycelle. Tell them, I am very much alive.
  • The first two episodes of Grimm have a lot of this once Aunt Marie is hospitalized. The first attempt is averted thanks to Nick stopping it and taking the poisonous injection himself. The second attempt is thwarted by the reluctant Monroe, by way of disarming an attacker. The third attempt is thwarted by Marie herself. She then promptly dies of her cancer once the assassin is dead and Nick has arrived.
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues in the pilot episode Pete has to save his hospitalized, newly-discovered, previously-thought-dead father.
  • Law & Order had this done to a child to make his mother keep quiet.
  • Leverage: In "The Beantown Bailout Job", the bank manager behind the whole scam is on his way to the hospital to kill the only witness, who's lying in a coma... only to find the Massachusetts State Police waiting for him when he arrives.
  • Luther: Sociopathic killer Alice Morgan disguises herself as a doctor, hits the fire alarm, and then tells the police officer guarding the man she intends to kill that there's some violent patients on the floor below who are hindering the evacuation. She then walks into the room and smothers her target with her bare hands.
  • After being shot, The Mentalist's Bosco nearly dies this way. Luckily, his Action Girl friend/co-worker/one true love, Teresa Lisbon, manages to stop the shooter. Poor Bosco dies anyway, but at least he and Lisbon get to have their Anguished Declaration of Love before he does.
  • Uther in Merlin (2008). Morgana, having turned evil, gave him a locket that caused Merlin's healing magic to actually kill him instead.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Drawing Dead", the first Victim of the Week is a woman in a coma. The murderer enters her room and shuts off her life support. When the victim wakens and sits up, the murderer finishes the job by shoving a comic book down her throat: choking her to death.
  • Monk:
    • "Mr. Monk Goes to the Hospital" sees Monk go to a hospital for a severe nosebleed. While there, he stumbles onto the murder of a neurosurgeon and determines that he was killed by Dr. Davis Scott, a cardiosurgeon he was to testify against for malpractice. Knowing that Monk is onto him, Dr. Scott attacks him and has him put into a hospital bed under an assumed name, with the false story that he fell down a stairway. He then intends to silence Monk by tricking a day nurse into administering a drug that he's deathly allergic to. Fortunately, Natalie arrives and manages to stop the injection just in time.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Rapper", a notorious rapper is killed when his limo is blown up, and his driver is left in critical condition. When the driver comes out of intensive care, the culprit, who fears that he was seen planting the bomb, goes to the hospital and kills the driver by strangling him with a gold neck chain, planting additional evidence to frame the rapper's rival for the crime.
  • Motive: In "Angels with Dirty Faces", the Victim of the Week is killed when the murderer injects a lethal dose of morphine into their saline drip. This leads to Angie and Oscar wondering why you would kill someone who was already brain dead.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Buffalo Shuffle", the first Victim of the Week is a cancer patient who is killed with an overdose of heroin as he lies in his hospital bed.
  • NCIS: McCallister attempts this on Vance, who kills him first with the knife that Gibbs had slipped him.
  • In a similar example on NCIS: Los Angeles, Granger is in the hospital after being stabbed in the back when an assassin comes in and injects poison into his IV. Fortunately, Hetty had expected something like this and left him a gun, which he uses to shoot the assassin before pulling the IV out of his arm so that the poison can't hurt him.
  • New Tricks had a villain from the previous season attempt to smother Jack Halford while he was in hospital recovering from a car accident.
  • Oliver, hospitalized after Helena cut off his tail, becomes Orphan Black's first on-screen death via this trope.
  • Penny Dreadful: Brona's affliction is pretty advanced tuberculosis, for which she is bedridden and in constant pain. At Ethan's request, Victor comes to assist in making her final moments more comfortable... Except that Victor also requires a beautiful female corpse to create a bride for his creature, necessitating Vorpal Pillow for a quick, easy, and bloodless technique.
  • Person of Interest: When Dirty Cop Simmons murders Joss Carter, John Reese goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge — but the rest of Team Machine, knowing Carter would want Simmons brought to justice, stop him, and Carter's partner Fusco gets to beat Simmons into submission and arrest him properly. However, Affably Evil mob boss Elias was also fond of Carter and believed he owed her a debt for saving his life, so Elias visits Simmons in hospital, tells him how much he sucks, and then has Scarface garrote Simmons to death.
  • In The Pretender, Miss Parker is sent to kill Sydney's twin Jacob, who was in a persistent vegetative state after a car accident caused by him wanting to leave The Centre. She faked his murder with Sydney's help. In a later episode, this is found out, which leads to sweepers being sent in to do the job properly. They do not arrive on time.
  • The Professionals: In "The Purging of CI5", Cowley is caught in a bomb explosion and rushed to hospital in a critical state. The assassin dons a Labcoat of Science and Medicine, bluffs his way past the guard at the door, and tries to inject the patient with a lethal drug only to have his arm grabbed by Cowley who was acting as The Bait to lure him out. Turns out Cowley's injuries weren't serious as he was able to get out of the building before it blew up.
  • An unusual humorous (if morbidly so) example occurs in Rescue Me, in which a character suffering from kidney cancer awakens from a musical Dream Sequence gone awry to find a well-meaning uncle attempting to smother him as an act of mercy because the doctors say he's taken a turn for the worse.
  • In Rosa salvaje, Dulcina turns off Federico's life support after he survives her shooting him.
  • In Seinfeld, George is in the hospital and keeps going on about how he doesn't want to suffer and just be sick forever, so he asks Jerry to put him out of his misery if it comes to that. Jerry says "Like this?", grabs a pillow, and starts suffocating him while he struggles.
  • In episode 6 of The Shadow Line, this almost happens to Gatehouse when he's in hospital after being shot by Glickman. However, he's able to overpower and kill his assassin and escape.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Necessary Evil", a killer intending to finish off Quark visits him with a bunch of flowers, which he shoves against the Bajoran deputy's chest, then removes to reveal he's stabbed the man with a knife. He then uses a Vorpal Pillow to finish him off, only to be interrupted by Quark's brother, who starts screaming; Odo rushes in with more deputies and arrests the killer.
    Odo: It's over, Rom! You're a hero! You saved your brother's life.
    [Rom starts to smile, then realises he's going to lose the bar if Quark lives and starts screaming again. On his not-so-deathbed, Quark smiles.]
  • Star Trek: Picard: Done as Bookends in "Stardust City Rag". In the opening flashback scene, Seven of Nine has to Mercy Kill Icheb who has been Strapped to an Operating Table and vivisected for his Borg components. At the end of the episode Bruce Maddox has been rescued from criminals, but he's suffering from severe internal injuries, so he's taken to the La Sirena's sickbay. His former lover Jurati is revealed to be The Mole when she turns off his bio-bed and watches in horror as he dies of internal hemorrhaging.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • An overt version is committed in "State of Flux". There's an unconscious Kazon in Voyager's sickbay who may know the identity of The Mole sending information to the Kazon-Nistrim. Their leader comes on board to see his injured man. Janeway is having a quiet word with the Doctor, asking him to delay any demand for the man to be removed, when the Kazon leader jabs him with a needle-ring containing a fatal nerve toxin. All Janeway can do is throw them off her ship.
    • In "Fury", Kes has turned evil and traveled back in time to when her younger self was the nurse on Voyager. This proves handy when Tuvok starts to sense that something is wrong. After Tuvok is brought to Sickbay after collapsing, Kes dials up the setting on his cortical stimulator, sending him into shock. He does recover, but not soon enough to interfere in events.
    • And another one, overt to the point of parody, in "Author, Author". In the Doctor's holo-novel, he's tending to a critically-injured crewman when Captain "Jenkins" comes in with a bridge officer who has a concussion. The Captain demands priority treatment for her officer, and shoots the poor Red Shirt when the Doctor protests.
  • In Tyrant (2014), Barry reluctantly kills Sheikh Rashid, who's been beaten into a coma by Jamal, as he lays in a hospital bed because he can see no other way to keep the diplomatic talks going when one of the negotiating parties is represented by a man in a coma.
  • The X-Files:
    • After A.D. Skinner is shot, Scully thinks this has happened to him when she finds his room empty and the police guards missing. It turns out that he's being transferred to another hospital. She decides to accompany Skinner there in the ambulance, which is just as well, as that's where the attempted murder occurs.
    • Skinner himself attempts to do this to the comatose Mulder in "Deadalive", thinking he is saving Scully's unborn child by doing so. It fails but ends up saving Mulder from a life of alien replication.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In The Bible, Hazael uses this against his king, Ben-Hadad, to earn himself a Klingon Promotion and become king of Syria. Ben-hadad was ill and had sent Hazael to ask the Israelite prophet Elisha if he would recover. Elisha told Hazael that Ben-hadad would die, but told him to say that he would recover. Hazael decided to fulfill the prophecy himself by reporting to Ben-hadad that he would recover, and then promptly smothering him to death.
  • Some tellings of Robin Hood describe Robin's ultimate fate to be this; suffering from a fever and placed under the care of a monk (or in some cases a nun), Robin dies after the healer pretends to perform some blood-letting, but lets Robin bleed out instead as an act of revenge for Robin killing another corrupt monk (implied to be the murderer's brother).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Call of Cthulhu supplement The Fungi from Yuggoth:
    • In the playtesting of the first adventure "The Dreamer", the Player Characters entered Paul LeMond's hospital room to find the cultist Clarence Rodgers strangling him. Rogers had infiltrated the hospital dressed as an orderly.
    • In The Worm That Walks, while a PC is in the hospital, Mr. Edwin sends the title monster to murder him by ripping him to shreds. The monster will masquerade as one of the PC's colleagues until it can attack him.

    Video Games 
  • In Broken Sword, you must pretend to be a doctor to speak to someone, however an assassin does exactly the same thing, invoking this trope. Nico lampshades this.
  • At the end of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, Zoe Castillo is drugged by Helena Chang to save the real world via dreaming. After she is done, Helena injects her with even more of the drug, to make sure she never wakes up again. Apparently, it only works half-way: Zoe cannot wake up but possesses a lot of power even when sleeping.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV, Jimmy Pegorino tasks Niko Bellic to go to the hospital and kill a traitorous underling that had suffered a heart attack when he was found out. You get in by disguising yourself as a nurse. Once you reach the target, you can either dispatch him quickly with a headshot or turn off his life support, which causes him to asphyxiate.
  • Any Hitman level that takes place in a hospital or medical bay:
    • Hitman (2016): In Hokkaido, the chief surgeon's patient is also his father's killer, and the nice doctor will off your target himself if you drug him up beforehand and show him the files. Meanwhile in Marrakesh, the aptly named "Angel of Death" Elusive Target is a traditional example; using her medical background to enter hospitals and nursing homes and kill patients.
    • Hitman 2: You are able kill Sierra Knox during her Vitamin hydration boost session in the medical bay in "The Finish line" by adding deadly Belladonna in the mix.
  • A sidequest in Mass Effect 3 offers Shepard the chance to do this to a known batarian terrorist — with the twist that the victim is awake and begs Shepard to kill him.
  • Considered in Persona by Nanjo at upon discovering that their friend Maki is trapped in Kandori's DVA system, which has been the cause of all their problems. Mark decks him for it.
  • In Sailor Moon: Another Story, a youma tries killing Hotaru while she's overcome with dark energy. Haruka, being the only character cynical enough to prepare for such an eventuality, has, of course, prepared.
  • Attempted on the main character in Sanitarium.
  • It's revealed near the end of Silent Hill 2 that James Sunderland killed his wife, Mary via Vorpal Pillow. Due to Mary having an unnamed illness that had given her only a short time to live, she constantly lashed out at James while simultaneously begging him to not leave her, causing his negative feelings towards her to increase until he couldn't take it anymore.
  • In Sleeping Dogs (2012), "Uncle" Po, The Don of the Sun On Yee, mysteriously dies in the hospital as he is recovering from gunshot wounds. In the end, it's revealed that it was Superintendent Thomas Pendrew who murdered him by injecting lethal chemicals into his IV-bag in an attempt to cover up the fact that he and Po had been in cahoots with each other in the past.
  • Tekken 4: After King II beats Craig Marduk to the point of hospitalizing him, he comes to the hospital to try and kill him as revenge for killing his mentor. It's only when he sees a picture of Marduk with his parents does he realize that revenge is the not answer and refrains from killing him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney has the killing of Magnifi, who was dying in hospital from liver cancer and diabetes when his murderer apparently came in and shot through the head. Subverted in that he ordered his own killing. Further subverted in that neither of the people who he ordered to kill him could bring themselves to do it, and so he committed suicide.
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Attempted by the mastermind when Naegi develops a severe fever during Chapter 5, in an attempt to kill someone and frame Kyoko, so they would have grounds to execute her. Luckily, Kyoko foils the attempt.
  • In one of the arcs of Higurashi: When They Cry, Satoko is killed like this when she is left as the sole survivor of Hinamizawa Disaster.

  • Morally inverted in Dumbing of Age when all-around Hate Sink Blaine ends up in the hospital and gets shot by a crooked cop (who even explains that it'll be passed off as a suicide on Blaine's part).
  • In Girl Genius, Gil has to defend his injured father Klaus, current ruler of much of Europe, from waves of assassins. The first attacker poses as a nurse and tries to poison the patient, and the attempts only escalate from there, up to a giant mechanical ant smashing in through a wall. Eventually, the entire hospital gets destroyed, but Klaus still survives.
  • Marry My Husband: Sumin leaves her mother-in-law Ja Ok to suffer from a stroke alone, and Ja Ok ends up hospitalized. When Sumin's husband Minhwan suggests leaving Ja Ok in the care of a reputable caretaker so they can go on vacation, Sumin quietly freaks out about the idea of Ja Ok regaining speech and exposing the truth. Sumin injects air into Ja Ok's IV line to induce an air embolism.
  • Unsounded: Bell suffocates a wounded soldier as he lays defenseless in a hospital bed, prattling on about the glory of war and mercy of the gods while the poor man struggles to pry Bell's hand off.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): If You Should Die Before You Wake


Austin Pays Vince a Visit

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin infiltrates the hospital to beat the crap out of a recovering Vince McMahon, which includes attacking Vince's injured foot and using a defibrillator on him.

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Main / KickThemWhileTheyAreDown

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