Every single being in this world has a right to life and to live in this
world with dignity. It is the universal right to every human being existing in
this world irrespective of their caste, gender, creed, race and sex. No
individual can deprive of Right to life under any circumstances. Article 3 of
Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that 'Everyone has right to life,
liberty and security of person'. In India, our Constitution also states under
Article 21 that 'No person shall be deprives of his life or personal liberty
except according to procedure established by law'.
The phrase "right to life" would include the right to live with dignity, which
would imply that this right would last until the end of natural life. A dying
human's right to pass away with dignity may be one of these. However, it is
important to distinguish between the "right to die with dignity" and the "right
to die" an unnatural death that shortens one's natural life expectancy. There
are countries which have made euthanasia legal but India doesn't support
The words 'euthanasia' and 'thantos' which in Ancient Greek indicate 'good
death' and death respectively, are the origins of the term. It is the act or
practice of ending the life of a person by injection or by ceasing extraordinary
medical care in order to relieve him of excruciating pain or from a terminal
sickness when they have a terminal illness or an incurable condition.
"euthanasia" refers to the deliberate killing of a person whose life is deemed
to be unworthy of living. It is sometimes referred to as "Mercy Killing," which
is an act where a person who is in an unfixable situation or has no prospect of
survival because he is experiencing excruciating pain ends his life in a
painless way. It is a painless, easy, and compassionate dying. It's a complex
and ethically charged topic that raises significant moral, medical, legal, and
Euthanasia can be categorized into several types:
- Voluntary Euthanasia: This occurs when a person explicitly requests or consents to end their life due to their own suffering. The decision is made by the individual, and a physician or another party may assist in carrying out the act.
- Non-voluntary Euthanasia: In cases where the individual is unable to make a decision, either due to unconsciousness, severe cognitive impairment, or being a minor, someone else makes the decision on their behalf. This form of euthanasia is more controversial, as it involves deciding when it is appropriate to end a life without the explicit consent of the person.
- Involuntary Euthanasia: This type involves ending a person's life against their will, often without their knowledge or consent. It is generally considered unethical and illegal.
- Active Euthanasia: In active euthanasia, a person's life is intentionally ended through a direct action, such as administering a lethal dose of medication.
- Passive Euthanasia: Passive euthanasia involves withholding or withdrawing medical treatment or life-sustaining interventions, allowing the person to die naturally. This can include removing life support or not initiating certain treatments.
- Assisted Suicide: In assisted suicide, a person provides the means for another individual to end their own life. This might involve providing them with a lethal dose of medication that they can self-administer.
Suicide and euthanasia are conceptually distinct from one another. In a suicide,
a man intentionally kills himself by poisoning, stabbing, or another method.
Without a doubt, suicide refers to a deliberate attempt at suicide. It is an
intentional act or event where someone kills themselves, usually out of
depression or for other reasons like being unlucky in love, failing an exam, or
having trouble finding a good job, among others.
Euthanasia, on the other hand,
involves someone else taking action to end the life of a third party. A third
party participates in euthanasia either actively or passively, aiding or abeting
the death of another. It is significant to note that "assisted suicide" and
"euthanasia" are not the same thing in this context. A person who actively aids
another person in committing suicide, such as by giving him the means to do so,
is said to be engaging in assisted suicide. It is referred to as "physician
assisted suicide" when a doctor gives a patient a prescription for a lethal drug
to help them kill themselves.
Since the patient commits the act of suicide, he
or she has entire control over the steps leading to death in an aided suicide.
The other person only lends a hand, such as by giving the necessary tools to
complete the action. On the other hand, euthanasia can be active, like when a
doctor gives a patient a lethal injection, or passive, like when a doctor turns
off the patient's life support system.
Euthanasia legislation varies greatly from country to country. Some nations,
including the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada, have made some types of
euthanasia lawful in certain circumstances. It continues to be outlawed in other
places. The issue raises complex questions about autonomy, medical ethics,
religious beliefs, and the government's role in setting boundaries for
individual freedom and medical assistance. In India, euthanasia, commonly
referred to as "mercy killing" or "assisted dying," has been the focus of legal
and ethical discussion. The distinction between passive and active euthanasia
was crucial to the legal framework around euthanasia in India.
In P Rathinam v. Union of India
[i], the court dismissed the argument that
"euthanasia (mercy killing) should be permitted by law and held-The Court would
not decide this point as it is outside the purview of the present petition and
secondly because in euthanasia a third person is either actively passively
involved about whom it may be said that he aids or abets the killing of another
person. There is a difference between a person's attempt to terminate his life
and another person being killed by someone else; this distinction can be drawn
on principle and is logically acceptable.
In the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India
[ii] that directed
that passive euthanasia will be made legal under exceptional circumstances with
strict monitoring without any legislation provided a significant boost to the
legalization of passive euthanasia. Following are the guidelines provided by the
Supreme Court for approving passive euthanasia: The decision to stop giving life
support must be made by parents, spouses, other close relatives, or, in the
absence of any of them, a person or group of individuals acting in the position
of a next friend
It may be taken by the medical staff treating the patient.
However, the patient's best interests must really guide the decision-making
process. The High Court must give its approval even if the decision to stop life
support was reached by intimate friends, family members, or medical professionals[iii].
In the case of Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India
Cause filed a petition with the Supreme Court under Article 32, asking the court
to rule that the right to pass away with dignity is a fundamental human right
protected by Article 21. Common Cause also asked the court to order the Union
Government to permit terminally ill people to execute "living wills" to specify
what should be done if they were admitted to hospitals.
People with fatal
illnesses or those who have ongoing medical conditions shouldn't be treated
inhumanely, according to Common Cause. Their agony will be prolonged if their
right to a peaceful death is denied. It pleaded with the Court to safeguard
these people's right to pass away with dignity by providing them with the chance
to make an educated decision through a living will.
"A person in a persistent
vegetative state may choose passive euthanasia, and that person can execute a
living will to refuse medical treatment in the event of a lethal illness that
can't be cured," the Apex Court ruled. The court also published comprehensive
rules on the procedure for carrying out passive euthanasia and advance directive
execution in response to worries about the abuse of advance directives (or
living wills), such as those voiced by the Law Commission of India in its 241st
The recommendations will be in effect up until Parliament passes a law
on the subject. The findings of the present study indicate that the debate over
euthanasia covers fundamental, major, and doctrinal opinions in addition to the
topic of suicide.
In conclusion, discussing euthanasia, it was important to strike a careful
balance between upholding a person's autonomy and moral obligations to protect
the sanctity of life. The conversation around euthanasia in India was influenced
by public opinion, medical ethics, religious convictions, and legal viewpoints.
In addition to discussing legal issues, the discussion also covered
intellectual, ethical, and moral issues. With continued discussions over the
rights of those experiencing excruciating suffering and the moral obligations of
medical professionals and society at and society at large, euthanasia in India
remains complex and developing issue.
- (1996) 2 SCC 648
- AIR 2011 SC 1290
- Constitutional Law of India by Dr. JN Pandey
- AIR 2018 SC 1665