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Published : September 22, 2011 | Author : muditsahai
Category : Criminal law | Total Views : 6029 | Unrated


Controversies on Euthanasia

I will give no deadly medicine if asked, nor suggest any such counsel”.-The Hippocratic Oath

This oath is taken by doctors to serve their profession in a dignified manner and it tells us that they are made to save the life of others, not to take the life of anyone.

‘Euthanasia’ is the word for ‘mercy killing’ or ‘to end the life’. If a person is suffering from any chronic disease since 30 years or 40 years and if he or she wants to end up his or her life, should he would be given permission to end up his or her life just because he is suffering from 30 years, he is not able to do anything with himself. Can law become so rude that it would allow any person to end up his or her life; this question is to be answered.

The House of Lords Selects Committee on Medical Ethics of England define Euthanasia as “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering”. This definition of House of Lords clearly explain the meaning of Euthanasia as people thought it is the best way to overcome or combat their problems.

If we want to know that when the debate on Euthanasia started, it is interesting to know that it was started in 1870. It was practised in Ancient Greece and Rome. It was supported by Socrates, Plato and was opposed by Hippocrates, Judeo-Christian. So, we are seeing that opinion on euthanasia is different among countries to countries person to person and group to group. Why there is a difference of opinion, it is the question of law which is questionable.

Why people support Euthanasia, it may be because the pain which they are having is unbearable or they see people in a very critical condition for 30 years and understand their pain or suffering. Yes, it is very difficult for the one who is on the verge of death to remain in a vegetative state for 30-40 years. In that condition I am in favour of Euthanasia. But what about Article21 of Indian Constitution, as it provides protection of life and personal liberty. It is the heart and soul of Indian Constitution. It is the main angle of the golden triangle of Indian Constitution which includes Article 14 and 19 of Indian Constitution. It is the most important question that whether Euthanasia should be incorporated in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. There are not any specific laws on this. If we see the Maruty Sripati’s and P. Rathinam’s case, both Bombay High Court and Supreme Court held that Right to Life includes Right to Die. I could say that somehow these decisions were correct as Article 21 gives Right to Life with human dignity and if a person are not in a position to live proper life that means he is not in a position to live properly nor he is in a position to die likewise as a normal human being or his present position would not get change after being change in the medical science then he has some right to die with dignity. But it does mean that everyone who is in a vegetative state would start demanding Euthanasia. I just want to light on this particular point that Euthanasia would be allowed on the individual merit of the case and if this is not there then there is no protection of life and everyone would start committing suicide and their relatives and the aggrieved will start taking the defence of Euthanasia. If we see the different side of the same coin then a person is helping or abets another person to kill himself then it is called death with consent. How is it possible for one to kill another though with his consent just for giving him relief from the pain?

· The Supreme Court in Gian Kaur’s case overruled the decision of Supreme Court in P. Rathinam’s case and held that the Right to Life does not include Right to Die. The Court said that committing suicide is an unnatural termination of life.

I somehow agree with this point that committing suicide or an attempt to commit suicide is an offence under sections 306 and 309 of Indian Penal Code and it has to be an offence because committing suicide is not the proper way of ending life just because a person has some problems in his or her life and if he or she can solve all those problems by making few efforts. The concept of Euthanasia is entirely different from the concept of suicide. Euthanasia is for those people who fight everyday for survival and suicide is whims and fancies of the individual.

Another important question is that, what is the difference between a person who is in a vegetative state and a person who is on a life supporting system?
In a recent judgement of Supreme Court in a case of Aruna shanbaug, the lady who is in a vegetative state since 37 years after being attacked by the ward boy at KEM hospital in Mumbai and after 37 years her journalist friend filed a plea in Supreme Court for Euthanasia on her behalf. The Court dismissed the plea but allowed Passive Euthanasia which means a doctor has the right to withdraw life supporting system of the person. For instance, if a person is on the ventilator and has no chance of surviving then doctors have all the rights to remove ventilator. We know that a person in a vegetative state and a person who is on the life supporting system cannot do anything, they are unable to response. Then why the Court rejected the plea of Aruna Shanbaug and on the other hand allows passive Euthanasia, just because Aruna Shanbaug has some sense of what is happening around and a person who is on the life supporting system has no senses at all. It is still the question, the answer of which is yet to be answered.

With this I concluded and in the end I just want to say that Euthanasia and suicide are two different aspects and to allow Euthanasia, the individual merit of the case should be seen and if the Court thinks fit then only it would allow Euthanasia otherwise not. There has to strict laws for Euthanasia. But allowing Euthanasia does not mean that pessimistic patents who are not at the terminal stage may seek death needlessly. If the purpose of Euthanasia is to alleviate the pain of incurable patients then allowing euthanasia is humane but it is necessary that it should be only to serve that purpose only. I mean people should not take its undue- advantage.

But I should say that-
“Doctors should kill the pain, not the patient”. If this thinking will get develop, there is no one who will demand Euthanasia. Here doctors does not include merely the professional people but it includes all persons who are suffering from chronic disease and those who are with them should take care of them at the fullest and try to fill the colours of life in their lives, so that they will stop thinking about dying or to get death.
. Wikipedia- Quotations on Euthanasia.
. Wikipedia on euthanasia
. Wikipedia- History of Euthanasia
. Dahiyaneeraj’s Weblog
. 1987 Cr LJ 549
. (1994) 3 SCC 394
. The Constitutional Law of India by Dr. J.N. Pandey.
. (1996) 2 SCC 648.
. The Constitutional Law of India by Dr. J.N. Pandey.
. Dahiyaneeraj’s Weblog

Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: muditsahai@legalserviceindia.com

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Article Comments

Posted by Shahista on January 22, 2012
Thanks for giving more information about Euthanasia, it helps me to study about Art.21 of Indian constitution.

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