A couple was married for 37 years when the loving wife brought a gun into her terminally ill husband’s hospital room and shot him. She said she was honoring his wishes, but now she is facing first-degree murder charges.
What does the law say about assisted suicide, euthanasia, and mercy killing? And what charges does the wife face for honoring her husband’s wishes?
What Happened in the Hospital Room?
Ellen Gilland, 76, and Jerry Gilland, 77, had been high school sweethearts. People close to them say they were a loving couple who were happily married for 37 years. But, their romance came to an end when Ellen Gilland brought a .38 revolver into Jerry Gilland’s 11th-floor hospital room and shot him, per reporting by the New York Times.
Jerry Gilland was reportedly facing a serious health condition, and he and his wife had made a pact. If his condition worsened, he wanted to die. He would do it himself, and if he didn’t have the strength, his wife — a former special education teacher — would do it.
On the day of his death, Jerry Gilland was not strong enough to hold the revolver so his wife did it for him. Ellen Gilland reportedly fired the shot that killed him.
A Three-Hour Standoff Leads to an Arrest
Ellen Gilland fired the shot around 11:35 a.m. at AdventHealth hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida, killing her husband.
When police arrived, she refused to leave the room, later stating she was planning to turn the gun on herself. Ellen Gilland didn’t threaten to shoot anyone, but she didn’t put the gun down as police officers tried to negotiate with her.
A 3.5-hour standoff required patients and staff to be evacuated from the area.
Police finally detained Ellen Gilland around 3:00 p.m. after using a flash-bang device and a non-lethal round, according to reporting by The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Ellen Gilland was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
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Wife Faces First-Degree Murder Charges
First-degree murder is the most serious murder charge in Florida. It is a Capital Offense defined by Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a) as murder that is either premeditated or committed while in the act of a felony.
Ellen Gilland appears to have planned her husband’s murder, making it premeditated.
The punishment for first-degree murder in Florida is life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.
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Florida Law on Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, and Mercy Killing
Florida law bans forms of assisted suicide, euthanasia, and mercy killing.
Florida State Code 765.309 says, “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to condone, authorize, or approve mercy killing or euthanasia, or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying.”
No information appears to have been released on Jerry Gilland’s prior medical condition or diagnosis, but even if he had been dying, Ellen Gilland committed a crime under Florida laws.
Even in states with Death With Dignity, Right to Die, or End of Life Options laws on the books, Ellen Gilland’s action would be considered illegal.
Denied Bond and Facing Serious Charges
Ellen Gilland remains in prison as a judge denied her request to be released on bond.
During the bond hearing, a psychiatrist and two of Ellen Gilland’s nieces testified on her behalf. The psychiatrist said he believed Ellen Gilland was no longer suffering from the depressive episode that led her to shoot her husband and that she was no longer a threat to herself or others.
Two of Gilland’s nieces testified and said Ellen Gilland was welcome to stay with them at their home. One niece said Jerry Gilland’s family supported Ellen Gilland’s pretrial release and that they had “no animosity” towards her.
But, the judge was not convinced.
He denied the request. “This is extremely sympathetic,” the judge said at the end of the hearing, but “the law in the state of Florida does not allow for a mercy killing.”
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