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Euthanasia: I choose to end the suffering

When confronted with two alternatives, life and death, one is to choose death, without hesitation.-Yamamoto Tsunetomo.
These were only lines to me till the day I saw my Grandmother suffering from her illness. She was bed ridden for a month She often asked me to end her suffering, She wanted to go but we both were helpless. After she left for heavenly abode I usually brood over the time I saw her being suffered, the time when she wanted to let her soul free from the pain. Then one day I came across the word Euthanasia.

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia; this word has its origin in 1640s. It means ‘a gentle and easy death.’ It is made from the Greek words ‘eu’ i.e. good and ‘thanatos’ i.e. death and abstract noun ending ‘-ia.’’ Legally sanctioned mercy killing’ is recorded in English by 1869.

There are two kinds of Euthanasia:-

Passive Euthanasia
Passive Euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because the medical professionals either don’t do something necessary to keep the patient alive or when they stop doing something that is keeping the patient alive.

Active Euthanasia

Active Euthanasia occurs when the medical professionals or any other person knowingly do something which causes the patient to die.

Religious views on Euthanasia

As there are different perspectives of individuals on Euthanasia there are different perspectives of each religion.

Buddhism
There are many views among Buddhists on it. An important value of Buddhism teaching is compassion. Compassion is used by some Buddhists as a justification for Euthanasia because the person suffering is relieved of pain.

Christianity; Catholicism

Catholic teachings condemns Euthanasia as ‘crime against life’ and a ‘crime against God’

Protestantism
Protestant denominations vary on their approach to Euthanasia. They are liberal than Roman Catholic Church though.

Hinduism
There are two hindu points of view on Euthanasia. By helping to end a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfilling their moral obligations. The other view is, by helping to end a life, even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth.

However, It is mentioned in ‘The Mahabharata’ about the ‘Ichchha Mrityu’ gift given to ‘Bhishma Pitamah’ which can be considered as Euthanasia.
So, It has always been a debating issue among the Religions.


Hippocratic Oath on Euthanasia

Primium non nocere. First do not harm.

Hippocrates; the father of the Modern Medical Science came up with this Oath in the fifth century B.C. in ancient Greece.

The Oath is now rarely taken by the doctors and if taken, not in its original form. Although, The Oath also directs physicians, to ‘help the sick’. A modern interpretation of the oath might be considered: Do what is right for the patient. So, the Hippocratic Oath is itself in dilemma.

As per the Indian Constitution
According to article 21 of the Indian Constitution ‘No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’

Meaning of Right to Life here is defined through some cases:-

Munn v. Illinois

Justice Field said By the term life as here used meant something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs aand faculties by which life is enjoyed. The provision equally prohibits the mutilation of the body by the amputation of an arm or leg..

Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh

Supreme Court declared that ‘life’ in article 21 is not merely the physical act of breathing.

Khadak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh

By the term ‘life’ as here used is meant something more than mere animal existence. The inhibition against its deprivation extends to all those limbs and faculties by which life is enjoyed.

Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration

The Supreme Court restate that ‘right to life’ included the right to lead a healthy life so as to enjoy all faculties of the human body in their prime conditions.
So, overall these cases state that Life is:-
Not mere animal existence. Healthy with all the faculties of human body.

Cases regarding Right to Die

Maruti Shi Pati Dubal v. State of Maharashtra
Supreme Court held that section 309 of Indian Penal Code as violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
[Section 309 of IPC which punishes the person convicted of attempting to commit suicide.]

Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab

In this case Supreme Court held that ‘Right to Life’ does not include ‘Right to Die’. This decision overruled the holding in case of Maruti Shi Pati Dubal v. State of Maharshtra. It was held in this case that both Euthanasia and assisted suicide were not lawfully valid in India.

P. Rathinam v. Union of India

In this case Supreme court held that ‘ Right to Die’ is a right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution and hence Section 309 of IPC was unconstitutional.

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India

This case changed the Euthanasia laws in India. It was held in its judgement by Markandey Katju J. Marte hain arzoo mein marne ki maut aati hai par nahin aati- Mirza Ghalib.
Aruna Shanbaug was in permanent vegetative state for nearly 42 years after a ward boy sexually assaulted her in 1973.

A plea was filed by journalist Pinky Virani for Euthanasia to Shanbaug.
Though Shanbaug was not granted Euthanasia and she died due to malaria but her case gave different parameters to Euthanasia in our country. Supreme Court gave recognition to passive Euthanasia and stated that a person must be given the ‘right to die with dignity’.

Active Euthanasia is still not valid in India


Position of Euthanasia in other Countries

  1. Netherlands is the first country to permit Euthanasia.
  2. In United States of America active Euthanasia is prohibited but passive Euthanasia is permitted.
  3. Canada permits passive Euthanasia but does not permit the active.
  4. In Belgium Euthanasia was made legal in 2002.


Conclusion
It is a debatable issue whether a person should be given right to die or not, from religions to medical science to laws and nations, the views are clashing.

I stand firm on the title of my article, ‘I choose to end the suffering’, Euthanasia gives the person the right to die with dignity which is the concept of article 21 of our Constitution, and the threat of misusing it can be overcome by putting reasonable restrictions on its applicability as every other law in India has. As per my opinion Euthanasia is morally and legally justified as personal liberty involves ending of life with dignity.

References

  1. The Constitution of India by P.M. Bakshi

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