” Everyday rational people all over the world plead to be allowed to die. Sometimes they plead for others to kill them. Some of them are dying already ….Some of them want to die because they are unwilling to live in the only way left open to them. ” – Dworkin
Euthanasia is the most perplexing issue touches upon many dimensions like Constitutional validity, moral values in society, medical complications etc. It has been legalized in few countries such as Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, Switzerland, Washington and Oregon state of U.S.A. Netherlands was the first country to legalize Euthanasia. And now there is a wave in India.
So what is Euthanasia ?
Euthanasia is a Greek term meaning ‘ good death ‘. It means self imposed death in a relatively painless and merciful way. Euthanasia is most often confused with another term ‘assisted death’. The difference is, in euthanasia the person who is dying performs the last act while in assisted death another person performs the act. Euthanasia or mercy killing is committed on the basis of medical reasons where the death of terminally ill person is bought about by another person who believes that such person’s existence is so bad that he/she would be better of dead.
Euthanasia can be classified into Passive Euthanasia & Active Euthanasia
Passive Euthanasia(PE) refers to allowing a patient to die by turning off life support
Active Euthanasia(AE) refers to cases where the active measures are taken to end the patient’s life such as by directly administering a lethal dose of drug.
Euthanasia in Indian Context
Insights in legal aspects related to euthanasia reveal that courts have changed their stand from time to time. Indian Constitution provides Right to life as fundamental right when interpreted has very elaborate meaning associated with it. In P. Rathiram v. Union of India (1994) that Right to Die is part of Right to life but reverted in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab(1996). Supreme Court declared that Right to Die was not included in Right to life and on 7th March 2011 in Aruna Shanbaug case, Supreme Court accepted the PE with some precautionary steps but still rejects the active Euthanasia. There is concern about misuse of Euthanasia if it is legally fully allowed. Although the Apex Court declined such request in respect of Aruna, it permitted PE in appropriate case.
Supreme Court has made provision for application from close person to the patient, a committee of medical experts and permission from concerned High Court to keep the procedure clean. But there is still environment of confusion as to how the issue should be dealt with, though judiciary has given the judgement.
Legalising PE by judiciary is big victory but it is the positive first milestone in the Indian context, not the last yet many things are there to be carried out. Now for the legislature this time to enact law on this issue. There is need of fresh and detailed legislation on Euthanasia. The verdict was a good beginning and with time it would become easier for the society to accept it.
Do you think there is a need of detailed legislation on Euthanasia ?
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