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Euthanasia in India

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    Introduction-: Euthanasia means mercy killing, it is a modern terminology to the word ‘moksha. ’ It is derived from Greek words ‘eu’ meaning good or well and ‘thanatos’ meaning death. In the case, M. S. Dabal vs. State of Maharashtra the supreme court held that -:“Mercy killing is nothing but homicide, whatever the circumstances in which it is affected. Unless it is specifically accepted it cannot be offences.

    Indian Penal Code further punishes not only abetment of homicide, but also abetment of suicide” When a person is suffering from an ailment from a very long time which has no cure and that person is given the permission to end his life in order to relieve pain and suffering is called ‘Euthanasia. ’ For a common man, when life becomes far more painful and unbearable than death, then it is very normal for him to desire death. Euthanasia is also termed as ‘dayamaran’. Some people as the great saints or heroic persons embrace ‘echchamaran’ or willful death, when they feel that they have achieved the purpose of their lives.

    There are different types of voluntary deaths in our country like the ‘sati’, ‘johars’, ‘samadhi’, ‘prayopaveshan’ (starving to death) etc. Euthanasia is categorised in different types-: 1. Voluntary 2. Non-voluntary 3. Involuntary Then its further devided into 1. Passive euthanasia 2. Active 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. . passive euthanasia-: Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water. 5. active euthanasia-: Intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection. But, there is no euthanasia unless the death is intentionally caused by what was done or not done. Thus, some medical actions that are often labeled “passive euthanasia” are no form of euthanasia, since the intention to take life is lacking.

    These acts include not commencing treatment that would not provide a benefit to the patient, withdrawing treatment that has been shown to be ineffective, too burdensome or is unwanted, and the giving of high doses of pain-killers that may endanger life, when they have been shown to be necessary. All those are part of good medical practice, endorsed by law, when they are properly carried out. Voluntary death from the historical and philosophical perspective-: Hinduism and Buddhism allow prayopaveshan since it is a non violent, calm and much time taking way of ending life and it occurs by starving oneself to death at the right time, i. . – when the person has achieved his aims in life and finished performing all the duties and responsibilities that were assigned to him and his body becomes a burden. Prayopaveshan is for people who are content with their lives. While on the other hand, suicide is a sudden act and associated with the feelings of anger, frustration, depression, i. e. – people who are not content with their lives have a tendency to commit suicide which is why it is not allowed by any of these religions.

    Though there is a division of views regarding euthanasia in Buddhism, the most common view is that voluntary euthanasia should not be permitted. Again there are two views of Hinduism regarding euthanasia which are contradictory, one is supporting euthanasia as a moral deed and another is considering euthanasia as a bad deed which disturbs the life and death cycle. Ancient Indian philosophical tradition also justifies the idea of a man willing his own death. As per Hindu mythology Lord Rama and his brothers took ‘jal samadhi’ in River Saryu near Ayodhya.

    Ancient Indian history also tells that Lord Buddha and Lord Mahavir attained death by seeking it. Jainism gives full consent to its followers who want to embrace death mostly by fasting, if they believe that ‘moksha’ can be achieved that way. Muslim, Christian and Jewish laws are all against suicide and even euthanasia. According to these religions , all human life is sacred since it is given by God, and human beings should not interfere in this. The Roman Catholic Church regards euthanasia as morally wrong since it has always taught how important the commandment ‘you shall not kill’ is.

    The idea of willful death is traceable to Socrates, Plato, and Stoics in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy as well. In ancient Greece and Rome, helping others to put end to their lives was also permitted in certain situations. Indian constitution & euthanasia-: From the moment of his birth, a person is clothed with basic human rights. Article-21 of the Indian Constitution states that – ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law’ It provides for Right to life which is one of the basic as well as fundamental right without which all rights cannot be enjoyed.

    Right to life means a human being has an essential right to live, particularly that such human being has the right not to be killed by another human being. In M. S Dubal vs. State of Maharastra, the Bombay High Court held that right to life under article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes ‘right to die’. On the other hand in Chenna Jagadeeswar vs. State of AP, the AP High Court said that right to die is not a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. However in P. Rathinam’s case Supreme Court of India observed that the ‘right to live’ includes ‘right not to live’ i. e right to die or to terminate one’s life.

    But again in Gain Kaur vs State of Punjab, a five member bench overruled the P. Rathainam’s case and held that right to life under Article 21 does not include Right to die or right to be killed. ‘Right to life’ including the right to live with human dignity would mean the existence of such right up to the end of natural life. This may include the right of a dying man to die with dignity. But the ‘right to die with dignity’ is not to be confused with the ‘right to die’ an unnatural death curtailing the natural span of life. Thus the concept of right to life is central to the debate on the issue of Euthanasia.

    One of the controversial issues in the recent past has been the question of legalizing the right to die or Euthanasia. Euthanasia is controversial since it involves the deliberate termination of human life. Patient suffering from terminal diseases are often faced with great deal of pain as the diseases gradually worsens until it kills them and this may be so frightening for them that they would rather end their life than suffering it. So the question is whether people should be given assistance in killing themselves, or whether they should be left to suffer the pain cause by terminal illness.

    Difference Between Euthanasia And Suicide-: There is a conceptual distinction between suicide and euthanasia. In a suicide a man voluntarily kills himself by stabbing, poisoning or by any other way. No doubt in suicide one intentionally attempts to take his life. It is an act or instance of intentionally killing oneself mostly due to depression or various reasons such as frustration in love, failure in examinations or in getting a good job etc. on the other hand, in euthanasia there is an action of some other person to bring to an end the life of a third person.

    In euthanasia, a third person is either actively or passively involved i. e he aids or abets the killing of another person. It is important to mention in this context that there is also a difference between ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘euthanasia’. Assisted suicide is an act which intentionally helps another to commit suicide, for example by providing him with the means to do so. When it is a doctor who helps a patient to kill himself (by providing a prescription for lethal medication) it is a ‘physician assisted suicide’.

    Thus, in assisted suicide the patient is in complete control of the process that leads to death because he/she is the person who performs the act of suicide. The other person simply helps (for example, providing the means for carrying out the action). On the other hand euthanasia may be active such as when a doctor gives a lethal injection to a patient or passive such as when a doctor removes life support system of the patient. The difference between euthanasia and suicide is clearly differentiated in the case Naresh Marotrao Sakhre v. Union of India,J. Lodha clearly said in this case. Suicide by its very nature is an act of self-killing or self-destruction, an act of terminating one’s own act and without the aid or assistance of any other human agency. Euthanasia or mercy killing on the other hand means and implies the intervention of other human agency to end the life. Mercy killing thus is not suicide and an attempt at mercy killing is not covered by the provisions of Section 309. The two concepts are both factually and legally distinct. Euthanasia or mercy killing is nothing but homicide whatever the circumstances in which it is affected. Position of Indian Law on Euthanasia In case of physicians, there is an intention to cause death of patient, hence he can be charged under clause (1) of section 300 of I. P. C but where there is valid consent of the deceased, exception 5 of section 300 is attracted and thus the act of the physician is considered as culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Part I of section 304. In case of non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia, the act of physician can be fall under section 88 and 92 of IPC as there is an intention to causing death of a patient for his benefit.

    And other relatives who are aware of such intention either of the patient or of the physician can be charged under section 202 of IPC. Global Status of Euthanasia-: There had been many debates going on the issue of legalizing euthanasia in all the parts of the world, it is legal in some countries and in some it amounts to murder. The Northern Territory of Australia became the first country to legalize euthanasia by passing the Rights of the Terminally ILL Act, 1996. Netherlands is the first country in the world to legalise both euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002.

    According to the penal code of the Netherlands killing a person on his request is punishable with twelve years of imprisonment or fine and also a assisting a person to commit suicide is also punishable by imprisonment up to three years or fine. In spite of this provision, the courts of Netherlands have come to interpret the law as providing a defence to charges of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. The defence allowed is that of necessity. In Canada, patients have the right to refuse life sustaining treatments but they do not have the right to demand for euthanasia or assisted suicide. In U. S. A. there is a distinction between passive euthanasia and active euthanasia. While active euthanasia is prohibited but physicians are not held liable if they withhold or withdraw the life sustaining treatment of the patient either on his request or at the request of patient’s authorized representative. Euthanasia has been made totally illegal by the United States Supreme Court. Euthanasia is illegal in United Kingdom but on November 5, 2006 Britain Royal College of obstructions and gynaecologists submitted a proposal to the Nuffield Counsel of Bioethics calling for consideration of permitting the euthanasia of disabled new-born.

    According to Article 115 of Swiss Penal Code, suicide is not a crime and assisting suicide is a crime if only if the motive is selfish. Aruna Shanbaug Case-: Aruna Shanbaug, who was working as a nurse at KEM Hospital, was assaulted on the night of November 27, 1973 by a ward boy. He sodomised Aruna after strangling her with a dog chain. The attack left Aruna blind, paralysed and speechless and she went into a coma from which she has never come out. She is cared for by KEM hospital nurses and doctors. The woman does not want to live any more.

    The doctors have told her that there is no chance of any improvement in her state. Her next friend (a legal term used for a person speaking on behalf of someone who is incapacitated) describes Shanbaug: “her bones are brittle. Her skin is like ‘Paper Mache’ stretched over a skeleton. Her wrists are twisted inwards; her fingers are bent and fisted towards her palms, resulting in growing nails tearing into the fles very often. Her teeth are decayed and giving her immense pain. Food is completely mashed and given to her in semisolid form.

    She chokes on liquids and is in a persistent vegetative state. ” So, she, through her ‘next friend’ Pinki Virani, decided to move the SC with a plea to direct the KEM Hospital not to force feed her. And on 16th December 2009, the Supreme Court of India admitted the woman’s plea to end her life. The Supreme Court bench compromising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices A K Ganguly and B S Chauhan agreed to examine the merits of the petition and sought responses from the Union Government, Commissioner of Mumbai Police and Dean of KEM Hospital.

    S. C. pronounced its judgement on 07th March, 2011 on the plea filed by Aruna Shaunbag’s friend Pinky Virani for passive euthanasia to Aruna as she had been mentally dead from past 38 yrs. S. C. rejected the plea and praised K. E. M. hospital for taking care of Aruna for the past 38 yrs. S. C. said that Aruna should live and wait for her natural death to take her life. S. C. bench presided by Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra made passive euthanasia legal in India but said that active euthanasia is still illegal.

    It is a landmark judgement passed by the S. C. which would leave a great impact on the society. The bench said that the State H. C. has jurisdiction to try such case and euthanasia can only be performed after the order given by the concerned H. C. Bench also stated that before coming to the conclusion the H. C. will take advice from a panel of 3 doctors who will tell about the condition of the patient and whether it is so much worse that the best resort is to kill that person.

    It also stated that a petition for passive euthanasia can only be filed by a close relative of the patient and not by any other person, it also stated that this judgement would be treated as law till Parliament passes any law on the issue. The S. C. also showed concern that this law can be misused so laid the guidelines stated as above. 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, it’s a doctors responsibility to search a medicine for the patient for destroying that disease. The debate on euthanasia , 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. The people are supporting euthanasia 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 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. · 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. Now, I want to discuss both the aspects for & against-: Arguments for Euthanasia: # It provides a way to relieve extreme pain # It provides a way of relief when a person’s quality of life is low # Frees up medical funds to help other people # It is another case of freedom of choice Arguments against Euthanasia: # Euthanasia devalues human life Euthanasia can become a means of health care cost containment # Physicians and other medical care people should not be involved in directly causing death # There is a “slippery slope” effect that has occurred where euthanasia has been first been legalized for only the terminally ill and later laws are changed to allow it for other people or to be done non-voluntarily. Conclusion-: if a person is suffering from incurable desease & he cant become healthy then to give a relief to the person by killing him is an humanity.

    Euthanasia is totally different from suicide and homicide. Under the Indian penal code, attempt to commit suicide is punishable under section 309 of IPC and also abetment to suicide is punishable under section 306 of IPC. A person commits suicide for various reasons like marital discord, dejection of love, failure in the examination, unemployment etc. but in euthanasia these reasons are not present. Euthanasia means putting a person to painless death in case of incurable diseases or when life became purposeless or opeless as a result of mental or physical handicap. It is also differs from homicide. In murder, the murderer has the intention to cause harm or cause death in his mind. But in euthanasia although there is an intention to cause death, such intention is in good faith. A doctor apply euthanasia when the patient, suffering from a terminal disease, is in an irremediable conditions or has no chance to recover or survival as he suffering from a painful life or the patient has been in coma for 20/30 years like Aruna Shanbaug.

    Therefore it is suggested that penal provision regarding attempts to commit suicide and abetment to suicide should be preserved in the interests of the society as a general rule but euthanasia (voluntary) should be permitted in certain circumstances as an exception to the general rule. Thus Indian Parliament should enact a law regarding euthanasia which enables a doctor to end the painful life of a patient suffering from an incurable disease with the consent of the patient.

    Parliament should lay down some circumstances under which euthanasia will be lawful as bellow; A) consent of the patient must be obtained, B) Failure of all medical treatments or when the patient, suffering from a terminal disease, is in an irremediable conditions or has no chance to recover or survival as he suffering from a painful life or the patient has been in coma for 20/30 years, C) The economic or financial condition of the patient or his family is very low, D) Intention of the doctor must not be to cause harm,

    E) Proper safeguard must be taken to avoid abuse of it by doctors, F) Any other circumstances relevant to the particular case Thus, Euthanasia could be legalized, but the laws would have to be very stringent. Every case will have to be carefully monitored taking into consideration the point of views of the patient, the relatives and the doctors. But whether Indian society is mature enough to face this, as it is a matter of life and death, is yet to be seen. Bibliography-: 1. Articles of euthanasia from law letter magine 2.

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