Arizona man who allegedly 'mercy killed' his wife highlights support for physician-assisted suicides

An elderly man admitted to killing his wife in Goodyear, claiming he put an end to her pain and suffering. This isn’t the first time we've seen what appears to be a mercy killing.

As of July 8, Arizonans do not have the option for physician-assisted suicide. It’s been legal in states like Oregon since 1997, but patients have to meet requirements.

In the most recent Arizona case highlighting this issue, Michael Gelleny, 67, called the police on himself telling them he shot his wife Brenda, 65, in the back of the head on July 6 in Goodyear.

He reportedly told police the morning that he killed her, that he kissed her and told her he loved her before getting the gun in the other room and pulling the trigger.

Gelleny reportedly thought about taking his own life, but instead turned himself in. Police paperwork states his reasoning was to make it as quick as possible and put an end to her four years of pain and suffering.

Gelleny is accused of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

It’s unclear if his wife was sick, but in a 2022 Facebook post she lays out all her struggles, saying, "I have nothing left. Nothing to live for." Her teeth were breaking at the gum line and her strength and energy were waning by the day.

We’ve seen similar cases in the Valley.

In 2013, 86-year-old George Sanders shot and killed his wife Ginger. He was charged with first-degree murder after his wife allegedly begged him to kill her.

He got two years probation.

‘We want to have choices and freedom’

In 10 other states, physician-assisted suicide is legal with specific parameters. The patient has to have a diagnosis of six months or less to live, must be mentally competent, and the prescription must be self-administered.

The practice is legal in parts of Europe as well.

In 2022, Arizona sisters Lila Ammouri and Susan Frazier flew to Switzerland. They were initially reported missing, but days later, loved ones learned they had died by assisted suicide.

Campaigners protest outside Parliament in Westminster, London, ahead of a debate in the House of Commons on assisted dying. A petition for a debate gained more than 200,000 signatures and has been backed by Dame Esther Rantzen. Picture date: Monday A

Groups like Arizona End-of-Life Options have been putting the measure in front of Arizona legislators for the last 16 years.

"I think we want to have choices and freedom and control over the way we live, and dying is a part of living. We want to have control over that too," Mark Savan, executive director for Arizona End-of-Life Options, said.

He says for many patients, it's more than pain that they are dealing with.

"It's about loss of autonomy, being a burden on others and probably the biggest one, is not being able to do the things that make life enjoyable for that person," Savan said. "I think it's a matter of personal freedom."

Arizona End-of-Life Options' most recent polling shows 64% of seniors are in favor of physician-assisted suicides – something the group says is motivating to continue to put in front of legislators after 16 years of trying.

The National Institute of Health lists arguments against aid in dying (AID). One of the reasons being that it could be a slippery slope.

"Others suggest that the slope is best exemplified by an expanding list of reasons for electing AID. Refractory physical pain is no longer the most compelling reason for ending one’s life through lethal ingestion. Instead, cumulative Oregon data suggest that the vast majority of patients elect AID because they are concerned about ‘losing autonomy’ (90.6%) or are ‘less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable’ (89.1%)," NIH said, in part.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Support in Spanish is also available. Call or text 988 or chat at