The Lesser of Two Evils: Mercy Killing

In the 1930s, mentally disabled people were marginalized in society. They were ridiculed for being different and often left out. In the book, Of Mice and Men, Lennie is mentally ill and is often made fun of. George has put Lennie under his wing and takes good care of him. They start working at a farm, and a few weeks in, Lennie accidentally kills a woman that lives on the farm. Worried about what would happen to Lennie, George decides there are no other reasonable alternatives besides killing Lennie himself.

George’s killing was an act of mercy, however, mercy killing is not acceptable in society. George killed Lennie out of mercy. George had no other choice. “I’m gonna get him. I’m going for my shotgun. I’ll kill the big son-of-a-b**** myself. I’ll shoot ‘im in the guts”(Steinback 47). This quote proves that Lennie would have suffered a whole lot more if Curley and the mob of people would have killed him.

Curley wanted Lennie’s death to be as painful as possible. Even if Curley and the other men didn’t torture Lennie to his death, Lennie would have been locked up and he wouldn’t have understood why. “No, Lennie. I ain’t mad. I never been mad, an’ I ain’t now. That’s a thing I want ya to know” (Steinback 52). In this quote, George is trying to soothe Lennie and cheer him up. George wanted Lennie’s last moments to be happy. If George wouldn’t have killed him, the mob of angry men would have and Lennie’s last moments would have been terrible. George’s killing of Lennie was completely out of mercy.

Mercy Killing is not at all acceptable in today’s society. “When society fears disability, pain and suffering more than it values human life, we end up with mercy killings”(Burlington). This fear or more appropriately, lack of willingness to care for those who are disabled or are suffering, leads to the concept of the human person having a claim on death. However, we do not have a claim on death; rather, death has a claim on us. “We cannot therefore accept as a justification for killing them the argument that their lives are not worth living”(Lawson). Everyone has the right to live; even if they are disabled or have health problems.

Someone’s mental and physical ability should not determine whether a person has the right to live or not. Because every single person has the right to live no matter what, mercy killing should never be considered okay. Although George’s mercy killing of Lennie is unacceptable in today’s society, he saved him from much greater pain and suffering. George took away what would’ve been a traumatic experience for Lennie. He wanted Lennie’s last moments to be happy memories.

On the other hand, Mercy killing is just a nice way of saying murder. Especially if the victim does not have consent. Despite the fact that George killed Lennie out of goodwill, mercy killing is not okay in humanity.