The Truth... What is it?

KILLING: a classification

I produced this because I've never run across any such chart in 30 medical forensic professional years. The classifications can vary somewhat depending on country and/or legal jurisdiction within a country. [more on homicide] And laws and administrative orders surely change from time to time. Terms may have differences in meaning depending on whether the particular case situation is primarily an administrative determination by an insurance company, coroner/medical examiner, or a civil legal action, or a criminal legal action. This classification outline is offered to illustrate some basic definitions and to show that there are quite a variety of legal and illegal killings (whether as yet conventionally recognized or not). Many of the below can be further modified with such terms as depraved heart/depraved mind, recklessness, aggravated, criminal, grave or wanton, etc. This web site uses this definition: To kill= to deprive a living thing of life.


  • ordinary, conventional suicide [suicide= voluntary and intentional act of killing oneself, especially if the decedent is of sound mind and at an age of reason]

    > obvious or straightforward suicide

       a lone suicide
       a sudden suicide triggered by finding a suicide

    > hidden, masked, or disguised suicide

       deliberately faked or disguised as an accident, homicide, or natural death
       inadvertently masked or non-obvious as a suicide
  • self-killing while mentally ill or insane
  • suicide by cop (or security officer, or soldier, or some other official or citizen)
  • murder-suicide
    > in a fit of hopelessness and despair

    > deliberately calculated: ordinary cases; the suicidal homicides of the Palestinians 
       popularized in   2001-2002.

  • Munchausen syndrome resulting in one's own death
  • self-destructive or very high-risk habits (example: binge drinking and/or chronic alcoholism), behaviors (example: extreme snow skiers, rock climbers, mountain climbers [strangely, American media society treats these deaths...they died attempting to do an extremely challenging thing because that is what they loved to if the deaths of heroes rather than the deaths of fools or idiots]), or addictions (examples: potentially lethal drug addictions; gay or straight sex addiction that risks sex with known AIDS cases) leading to one's own death.
  • assisted suicide (as by Jack Kevorkian, M. D., the severely misguided pathologist now in jail).
  • group suicide under the influence of a leader

LAWFUL or LEGAL KILLING (excusable/justifiable homicide) of another or killing while insane or mentally ill

  • execution by death row "capital punishment"...a 12% error rate
  • abortion
    > conventionally early
    > "partial birth" or late term (illegal 2003 overturned to legal in 2004)
    > birth control medications or devices that kill the conceptus
  • law enforcement, unavoidable or necessary homicide
  • in self-defense, unavoidable or necessary homicide
  • suicide by cop (or other, see above)
  • killing (by soldier or civilian) of the enemy (soldier or civilian victim) in a declared war
  • accidental homicide/death: an unavoidable killing of another by a sober person responsibly going about his/her business
  • some countries
  • medical situations

    > Munchausen syndrome by proxy resulting in death of another

    the technician microscopically examines early growing in vitro fertilized embryos and discards (kills) those he/she thinks aren't "right"

    > excessive and unneeded live embryos maintained from a fertility treatment harvest & are turned over to, and consumed in, a fetal tissue research program to get embryonic stem cells.

    > frozen embryos that are destroyed because the owner no longer wants them & won't allow transfer for live use elsewhere

    > DNR (do not resuscitate), by Living Will

    withhold greater than supportive treatment, by Living Will

    withdrawal of life support (in a comatose/unresponsive vs. responsive, by Living Will or Court order or legal action

    > uncontested by family, non-legalized withdrawal of life support (patient is comatose & terminal and without medical hope) under the care of patient's physician

    potential civil actions for "wrongful [not illegal] death" (death due to the negligence of another):

     airliner crashes: emergency blood supply insufficient & people die

       2. terminally thrombocytopenic patient fatally hemorrhaging during severe blood shortage and
       his/her  doctor decides not to demand blood from blood bank & patient dies

       3. man 40 minutes from hospital & bitten by poisonous snake & dies because hosp. out of antivenin

       4. cirrhotic patient to ER by EMS, vomiting up blood severely; survives after 32 units of
       blood & FFP, which, with newly developed test, is subsequently found on a
       "look back" to have had one unit contaminated by HIV. Patient contracts and later dies of HIV.

UNLAWFUL or ILLEGAL KILLING (criminal homicide) of another

  • MURDER: with express [actual intent to kill the intended victim or any other person in the lethal action] or implied [death results from intent to cause serious, but not fatal, injury; or by an act creating great risk for others] MALICE or intent to kill or do harm

    > murder in the 1st degree

       intent to kill: with deliberation and premeditation; or,

       felony-murder: during dangerous felonies (such as armed robbery); or,

       murder by poison, lying in wait, or torture

       murder by common agreement: a most famous example is the "mass suicide" of a group of 900+ Jews in revolt against Rome & crowded into an amazing desert fortress (somewhere between 71-74AD)...known as the "mass suicide at Masada" [but only the final man alive committed suicide]

    > murder in the 2nd degree

       killing with malice aforethought but without deliberation and premeditation

       felony-murder during felonies which are not inherently dangerous

    > murder in the 3rd degree

       killing in the heat of passion (and all other kinds of murder...such as depraved
       heart or depraved mind [action reflecting a wanton or willful disregard of the
       likelihood that the natural tendency of the defendant's act is to cause death or great
       bodily harm] shall be in the 3rd degree)
  • MANSLAUGHTER: without express or implied malice or intent to kill or do harm

    > Voluntary (intentional)

        intentional killing, without malice, and under mitigating circumstances

        requires adequate provocation of the accused

        may include killing in the heat of passion, before defendant cooled off

    > Involuntary...may be modified with terms like "aggravated"

        unintentional killing; during

        commission of a dangerous, unlawful act; or
        while doing a lawful act but with criminal negligence; or

        as a result of failing to perform legal duty (which shows criminal negligence)

  • Negligent homicide or vehicular homicide
  • killing while mentally ill (and can be any homicide category) and modified with such as "guilty but mentally ill" or "not guilty by reason of mental illness"
  • killing while insane (and can be any homicide category): "guilty but insane" or "not guilty by reason of insanity"

***give me your comments about this page***

check out the Highest TRUTH

(posted 10 Feb. 2001; latest update 23 September 2005)