Article 21 of the Indian Constitution gives every citizen of India the right to life and personal liberty. Does it also give the same person the right to die peacefully?
Euthanasia or mercy killing as it is called is giving a person the right to die. This is a very controversial issue around the globe as one part of the group calls life as a sacred entity and no one has the right to end it except god and the other part, in support of euthanasia, believes in ending the suffering of the person vs living a painful life and waiting for your demise.
Many a time, we come across people who are completely bedridden and are entirely dependent on their relatives or domestic help. They are diagnosed with some terminal illness that continues to wither them in pain. Seeing them in pain each passing day, makes one tremble. Euthanasia, which means ‘mercy death’, can actually mitigate this suffering and end those long years which they would have to suffer alone.
Euthanasia is broadly characterized into two types – Active and Passive.
Active Euthanasia – In this type, the doctors use lethal means like lethal injections or some excess dose of poison to bring death to the patient.
Passive Euthanasia – In this method, the death is caused the other way round. Cutting off the necessary life support systems of the patient, denial of medicines and withdrawing of facilities that are required for the patient to recover and function properly.
India has legalized passive euthanasia in 2011, following the Aruna Shanbaug case. An unfortunate and a heinous incident on the night of November 27, 1973, in the KEM Hospital, Mumbai made the brave-hearted Aruna into a crippling piece of the body being dependent on the hospital staff for 42 long years. She was in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) since then till her death in 2015.
In 2011, Pinki Virani, a journalist took up her cause and petitioned in the Supreme court to allow Euthanasia so that Aruna dies peacefully. In its historic judgment in 2011, the Supreme court legalized passive euthanasia although it could not be applied to Aruna. The consent for Euthanasia (Active / Passive) can be given by doctors, relatives, spouse or even a ‘next friend’. The Supreme court did not give Aruna the privilege of being the next friend as they thought that the staff of KEM hospital deserves this privilege as they have taken care of Aruna since that fateful incident. The staff wanted Aruna to live with dignity till her natural death and hence she suffered for 4 more years.
There can be no words to explain her excruciating years, but her pain could have been eased if Euthanasia was allowed in her case.
Euthanasia is not a sin. It’s just a way to end somebody’s suffering. A fast and instant death is much more peaceful than a slow and chronic one. Keeping in mind all the discomfort a terminally ill patient goes through, Euthanasia is definitely a positive step in the right direction.