EUTHANASIA: Right to die with dignity

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This article has been written by Mansi Singh, a 1st year student of Amity law School Raipur, Chhattisgarh

Euthanasia refers to purposely ending someone’s life.  also known as mercy killing, it is the act or practice of painlessly putting to death. It is done to relieve that person from pain and suffering. mercy killing is performed by doctors rarely when it is requested by the people who have incurable illness and are in a lot of pain.

It is a very complex process and it call for many facets. Such as local laws, someone’s physical and mental health, also their personal beliefs and wishes.[1]

  • TYPES OF EUTHANASIA:
  1. VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA (when the person who is killed has requested to be killed)
  2. NON-VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA (when the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent).
  3. INVOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA (when the person who is killed made an expressed wish  to the contrary).

There is a debate about consent being an essential component. According to medical and bioethics literature, killing of a person without the person’s consent (non- voluntary or involuntary) is not euthanasia. Euthanasia can be voluntary only and if not then it is murder.

  • IT CAN BE DIVIDED INTO TWO TYPES ACCORDING TO MEANS OF DEATH: –
  1. ACTIVE EUTHANASIA

Voluntary euthanasia is also known as “Positive euthanasia or aggressive euthanasia”. It refers to causing purposely death of a human being by direct intervention. It is a action performed to end purposeless and absurd existence. For example: by giving lethal dose of drug or by giving a noxious injection.

It  is usually a quicker means of causing death and all forms of active euthanasia are illegal.

  1. PASSIVE EUTHANASIA

Also known as “NEGATIVE EUTHANASIA OR NON-AGGRESSIVE EUTHANASIA”.  It means purposely causing death by nor providing essential, and ordinary care of food and water.  implies withdrawing or removing artificial life support system.  it is rather more difficult, slower and  uncomfortable than active euthanasia. Most of the voluntary, passive and some instance of non-voluntary, passive euthanasia are legal.[2]

Passive euthanasia is legal in some countries through out the world. In India passive euthanasia was not a practice until in 2018 the five-judge-bench of supreme court held “Passive euthanasia as the fundamental right of every citizen”. The decision held that India now recognizes passive euthanasia and living will.

In march 2018, supreme court in a land mark judgment passed an order allowing passive euthanasia in the country. According to INDIA EXPRESS REPORT the five-judge-bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising justices A.K. Sikri. A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, issues guidelines in recognition of “Living will” made by terminally-ill patients.

  • THE GUIDELINES INCLUDE:
  1. Who can execute the will and under what conditions can the medical board countersign euthanasia.
  2. Further the court held that the guidelines shall remain force till a legislation is brought to deal with the issue.

The court issued the verdict on the PIL field by NGO common cause in 2005. The arguments were argued by Prashant Bhushan in a case that when a medical expert suggests that patient suffering from a terminal disease had reached to a point from where coming back is not possible, then the person should have the right to refuse artificial life support.

Justice Chandrachud held:

Life and death are inseparable. Every moment our bodies undergo changes…. life is not disconnected from death. Dying is a part of the process of living”

Earlier the bench had reserved its judgment on October 11 2017. While observing right to die in peace could not be separated from Right to Life under Article 21 of the constitution.

  • CASE LAW: –

  1. A) Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab.

A five-judge bench, headed by justice J.S. Verma in “Gian Kaur v. state of Punjab” in 1994 held both assisted suicide and euthanasia unlawful. The bench stated that right to life did not include in right to die. Hence overruling the decision in “P. Rathinam v. Union of India” which struck down section 309 of IPC (Attempt to suicide) as unconstitutional.

In Gian Kaur case, apex court held that Article 21 depicts life and dignity, and the aspects that can be included in this would be that which make it more dignified, there by pointing out that right to de is inconsistent.

  1. B) Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India

In the above case of “Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India”, the supreme court in march 2011 held passive euthanasia can be given nod in case of exceptional circumstances but under the strict monitoring of apex court.[3]

  • FACTS:-

Pinky Virani, filed a petition in supreme court on behalf of Aruna, who was a nurse in king Edward Memorial, she was raped by a ward boy and comatose for 40 years. The man choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her. The result was that the oxygen could not reach her brain. After which she was admitted to the same hospital. For 2 years, she was in the same ward in a comatose state.

Later in 2011 supreme court rejected the mercy killing petition of Aruna Shanbaug and the hospital staff criticized Pinky Virani, and alleged she was only interested in “making money” out of Aruna’s plight.

However, Shanbaug’s case changed right to die law:

On 24 January 2011 ,supreme court retorted to the peal for euthanasia and concluded that Shanbaug met “most of the criteria of being in permanent vegetative state”

Although, it turned down the mercy killing petition on 7 march, 2011. The court, in its landmark judgment, however allowed “PASSIVE EUTHANASIA” [4]

  • GLOBAL VIEW:-

The first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted in Netherlands in April 2002. According to a Guardian report, the country had issued guidelines and conditions, including that “the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable and the demand must be made in “full consciousness” by the patient.

Belgium also followed the law of euthanasia in the same year. And also mentioned that suicide is not mentioned in the law. The law stated that “doctors can help patients to end their lives when they freely express a wish to die because they are suffering from intractable and unbearable pain”

Although it remains illegal in United States. But in five states in the country, doctors are allowed to prescribe lethal doses of medicine to terminally ill person. According to studies in 2013, around 300 terminally ill Americans were prescribed lethal medicine and around 230 people died as a result of taking them.[5]

CONCLUSION:

Thus, it  can be legalized in any country, but the laws of the respective country would have to be very stringent. And it would be the duty of the government as well as of the judiciary to see that the laws are followed rigorously. Every case should be carefully monitored keeping in mind the consideration and the view point of patient, the relatives and the doctors.

But there arise a question whether the Indian society is mature enough to face this or mature enough to adapt into this environment, as it is a matter of life and death.

REFERENCES:-

[1]https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-euthanasia#types

[2]http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/787/Euthanasia-in-India.html

[3]https://thewire.in/health/passive-euthanasia-now-a-legal-reality-in-india

[4]https://www.firstpost.com/india/supreme-court-allows-passive-euthanasia-how-aruna-shanbaug-case-changed-right-to-die-with-dignity-law-4383451.html

[5]https://thewire.in/health/passive-euthanasia-now-a-legal-reality-in-india

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