Euthanasia, in the simplest terms, is mercy killing for those patients for whom there is no end to their pain. In India This issue came to limelight during Aruna Shahbaug case where a friends and relatives of ex nurse who was in vegetative state from last 3 decades requested the supreme court to grant permission to end her misery by invoking euthanasia.
What is Euthanasia?
Generally, the word euthanasia is defined as the, act or practice of painlessly putting to death or withdrawing treatment from a person suffering an incurable disease. Euthanasia is intentionally killing another person to relieve his or her suffering.
There are 2 types of euthanasia: Passive euthanasia and Active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is defined as taking an immediate action such as using lethal injection to painlessly put a terminally-ill patient to death. Passive euthanasia is withdrawing treatment while the life of the patient is still dependent on it and when it is believed that treatment is more burdensome than beneficial. Passive euthanasia allows the patient to die naturally and is often considered more acceptable.
Current legal status of Euthanasia in India
• Prior to Aruna Shahbaug case both active and passive Euthanasia was not allowed in India. In Aruna Shahbaug case the Supreme Court allowed passive Euthanasia, However it did not grant permission for Active Euthanasia.
• Still there is no law made by parliament in India about Euthanasia. The court also clarified that until Parliament enacts a law, its judgment on active and passive euthanasia will be in force.
• In Aruna case the supreme Court has held that there is no right to die (suicide) under Article 21 of the Constitution and attempt to suicide is a crime vide Section 309 Indian Penal Code , the Court has held that the right to life includes the right to live with human dignity, and in the case of a dying person who is terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state he may be permitted to terminate it by a premature extinction of his life in these circumstances and it is not a crime as per section 309 of IPC i.e. Euthanasia does not come within the ambit of suicide.
Should Euthanasia be legalized???
• In a country like India where hospitals are overcrowded and we face shortage of beds and have too many patients. Some argue that they should let those die that do not have a chance of living on. In that way there could be more room for patients with diseases that can be cured.
• It provides a way to relieve extreme pain. It provides a way of relief when a person's quality of life is low.
• In a democracy a person has the right to decide what he or she wishes to do with his or her life. A person who is suffering has the right to choose what should be done with his or her life. He or she may choose to get treated and he also has the freedom to not choose treatment. If treatment is unavailable and a person is unable to bear the suffering, then it is his or her right to end the painful life. Ending such a life in a medically monitored manner is the most rational thing to do. Instead of people who are suffering immensely ending their lives in brutal or horrifying ways, it is better for a doctor and the person's family to assist in the process.
• Euthanasia has far-reaching financial implications. There are many people in India who are in vegetative state even if we spend any amount on them they would never recover . One would simply prolong the life of suffering and pain while spending a lot of money. There are thousands of cases where a family has gone bankrupt to ensure medical care for a terminally ill person or to keep up the treatment for an incurable disease. Prolonging such lives would only lead to heartache, financial challenges and eventual futility. Instead, euthanasia allows peaceful death in a medically monitored environment. The person suffering would not suffer. The family or loved ones to be bereaved will not spend a fortune which would yield them no returns.
• Euthanasia can save life of many other people- When people become old and especially when they suffer from terminal illness or incurable diseases, they still have vital organs which can be donated. If the person dies naturally and doesn't manage to get the organs donated, then they are of no use. Wrong methods of suicide or prolonging the illness can also damage the vital organs which would be of no use. Euthanasia allows the patients to die under medical supervision and the healthy vital organs can be donated to those in need. This can pave the way for a much better world.
• Mercy killing is morally incorrect and should be forbidden by law. It is homicide and murdering another human cannot be rationalized under any circumstances.
• Euthanasia can be misused. Many psychiatrists are of the opinion that a terminally ill person or someone who is old and suffering from an incurable disease is often not in the right frame of mind to take a call. Such a person deciding to die may not be a rational call.
• Family members deciding on behalf of the patient can also lead to abuse of the law legalizing euthanasia. Suppose a very rich person is terminally ill and he has already in his will appointed his relative as his successor,There are chances that in a lust to appropriate property as early as possible this relative might give permission to invoke euthanasia on that rich person even if there are chances to save the person.
• Many religions think that euthanasia is immoral. Some religions regard it as a type of murder. There are chances that legalizing Euthanasia in India would hurt the feeling of many devout followers of the religion.
• There is always a chance of medical miracle which is not being accounted for when euthanasia is opted for. A person may not suffer forever as is expected in certain situations. A person may get better and that possibility is completely rejected when euthanasia comes into the picture.
• Mercy killing would lead to the 'slippery slope effect', which is when those who are unable to voice their desires are put to death like the senile, or a baby or someone in a coma and so on. It would cause decline in health care and cause victimization of the most vulnerable sections of society. Perhaps, mercy killing would transform itself from the 'right to die' to 'right to kill'?
International status regarding Euthanasia:
• In April 2002, the Netherland became the 1st country to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. It imposed a strict set of conditions: the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable, and the demand must be made in “full consciousness” by the patient. In 2010, 3,136 people were given Euthanasia under medical supervision.
• In USA Doctors are allowed to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill patients in 5 US states.
• As of October 2015, human euthanasia is legal in the Holland, Belgium, 5 states of USA, Ireland, Columbia, Luxembourg etc.
The most common argument against hastening the end of a patient's suffering is that no one can be denied the right to life. However, life is not only a heart pumping blood into vessels; life is not merely a pair of lungs lying behind a heaving chest; life is not various other organs being whipped to work with advanced machines. Life is not just the greenish undulating patterns on the screen of a monitor. Life on 'Life Support System' is merely existence devoid of even basic dignity which is the natural right of every human being. Can we call mere existence, without any awareness of it, life? Is prolonging the sufferings of such victims of fate not a disservice to them? Therefore if a patient is in extremely vegetative state where there are no chances of revival a permission for mercy killing should be granted to him, However in order to ensure that this law is not misused the person's medical condition should be checked by 4-5 different boards of doctor so that it is absolutely confirmed that under no circumstances the patient condition could be brought back to normalcy.