Two Sides Of Euthanasia
This paper will deal with the topic of Euthanasia. It will cover the arguments
for both supporting euthanasia as well as arguments against euthanasia. This
paper covers aspects and angles related to euthanasia from across the globe and
present those views as well. It will also cover the current situation of
euthanasia in India. It also gives the opinion of the author and what he feels
about the whole situation. A landmark judgment regarding euthanasia is also
covered in this paper which will give the readers a clearer view as to what is
the history of euthanasia with respect to the Indian judiciary. This paper is a
simple read and will improve the understanding of the readers with respect to
this particular topic.
Euthanasia as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the act or practice
of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in
a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. There is no clear section in
the IPC that talks about Euthanasia but in the Supreme Court judgment of Aruna
Shanbaug Vs. Union Of India, passive euthanasia has been allowed. There are
various kinds of euthanasia such as active and passive euthanasia.
euthanasia is when a person directly causes the patient’s death, an example of
active euthanasia is when a person is killed by being given an overdose of
sleeping pills. On the other hand, passive euthanasia is when a person is killed
by an omission. An example of this is when treatment is withheld for a patient
(life support being taken away from a patient). Voluntary and involuntary
euthanasia are also types of euthanasia. In the voluntary euthanasia, the
request to die is made by the patient himself.
On the contrary, non- voluntary
euthanasia occurs when the person is not mentally stable enough to take a
decision as to whether he or she should live or not. In cases like this, an
appropriate person takes the decision on their behalf.
Involuntary euthanasia is when the patient chooses to live but is killed
anyway. Assisted suicide also comes under the realm of euthanasia, in this case,
the doctor knowingly and intentionally gives the patient the knowledge or means
(or even both) required to commit suicide.
In this paper, I will be analyzing the concept of euthanasia. The aim of the
paper is to give both sides as to whether euthanasia should be legalized in
India. I will be citing various cases from around the world to argue both sides.
To give a broader picture, this paper will deal with death in criminal law.
Arguments Supporting Euthanasia
To start with euthanasia, there are people on both sides of the argument. People
who are in favour of euthanasia have several arguments that support their
stance. One of the most common arguments is that it will end great suffering and
pain that is caused by serious illnesses. Patients who are diagnosed with
serious diseases that may end their lives, the pain that they have to go through
is unthinkable by anyone else. If euthanasia was legalized, then a lot of people
will not have to go through that amount of pain as when there is no chance of
survival and the patient is in a permanent vegetative state; they could use the
option of euthanasia and end their own lives.
Speaking from a financial point of view, all these medical treatments do cost a
lot of money and for many people, it is quite impossible to sustain such
treatments for a long period of time. Some families just are not able to pay
such high amounts for treatments and in the end, it might be all for nothing as
that person might end up dying and all that money might just go to waste.
Autonomy is defined as the ability to make your own decisions without being
controlled by anyone else According to the principle of autonomy, each person
has values and bears certain individual rights and should be able to make
choices that determine his or her life. The legal banning on euthanasia
restricts this right of liberty with respect to people who want to end their own
One of the most important cases that support the cause of euthanasia is the Aruna
Shanbug case in India. Aruna was working as a nurse in King Edward Memorial
Hospital in Mumbai where one day in 1973 she was strangled with a chain by a
worker and then sodomised by the same worker.
This attack stopped the supply of oxygen to her brain. The doctors immediately
declared that she would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. Pinky
Virani who was a journalist filed a petition with the court to allow euthanasia
in this case. In response to this, the Supreme Court responded by setting up a
medical panel to examine the state of Aruna and whether she was actually in a
vegetative state or not.
The medical panel came back with the result that she was actually in a
vegetative state. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment declared certain
general guidelines legalizing passive euthanasia. The decision to withdraw
support was given to the next “friend” who according to Supreme Court was
KEM Hospital staff and not Pinky Virani.
The staff at the hospital wanted her to live but the Supreme Court gave them
permission to withdraw life support with the approval of the Bombay High Court.
Fast forward to Feb 25, 2014; the Supreme Court declared that the opinion
previously stated in the Aruna Shanubaug case was based on a wrong
interpretation of the case of Gian Kaur Vs State Of Punjab.
The nurses at the KEM Hospital took this news very happily as they loved Aruna
and loved taking care of her. They were always against the idea of Euthanasia
and were glad that the rule was changed. A few days before 18th May, 2015 Aruna
was diagnosed with Pneumonia, she was moved to the ICU of the hospital and on
the 18th of May, 2015 she passed away.
Arguments Against Euthanasia
Coming to the arguments against Euthanasia, there are many people who are
against the whole concept of euthanasia. One of the biggest arguments as to why
euthanasia should not be legalized is looked through a religious standpoint.
If euthanasia is legalized then it gives the doctors (and even patients
sometimes) a chance to be “God” and decide until when a person can live. One
very practical argument against euthanasia is the slippery slope argument. The
slippery slope argument states that once we start going down the wrong slope,
there is no way of stopping going down that slope.
In this case, people feel that if euthanasia is legalized, then the next thing
that will be legalized is non-voluntary euthanasia. This will not even give the
patient a chance to pick whether he or she should live on or end their life.
Family members who are not fond of certain older members who are in a critical
state might just use the passive euthanasia and end their lives. One case of non
– voluntary euthanasia that can be noted is the one in the Netherlands. In the
1990s, reports came out saying that out of 5000 around 1000 patients were given
drugs by the doctors with the sole purpose of shortening their lives without the
explicit request of the patient.
Another argument posed by the parties that are against euthanasia is based on
the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors in the typical sense are not meant to be killers;
they are supposed to be healers and saviours. There is a passage in the Oath
that says the following “I will never give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for
it, nor will I make a suggestion to its effect.” It is a common sentiment that
if doctors were allowed to administer euthanasia then it would undermine the
objectives of the medical profession and going further there would be no trust
between the doctor and the patient.
One case that supports the cause against euthanasia is that of Sidney Cohen in
America. He was diagnosed with cancer and then 8 months later when he was given
3 months to live he came out with a statement saying that he wishes that
euthanasia was administered so that the suffering could end. After a few months,
he took out a statement saying that he knew that death was inevitable but since
coming under the care of the Macmillan Service, a lot of his pain has been
relived. He found many positives by not going in for the option of euthanasia
and at the end of the statement, he also says that he is against the idea of
euthanasia and finds it fundamentally wrong
As of this day, the Indian Supreme Court has declared that “passive euthanasia”
is allowed and the Supreme Court declared that the individuals have the right to
die with dignity under strict guidelines. The patient will have to specify in
his will that life support should not be given if he is in a coma. (.As of June
2016, euthanasia is legal in Holland, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg. Assisted
suicide is legal in Canada, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland and in certain
states of the US (Vermont, Washington, Oregon, Montana and California).
Above are both sides to the debate and there is no clear winner. There will
always be people on either side. This is no black or white matter; there is a
scope for a lot of grey area as well. Euthanasia is something that cannot be
always just looked at logically; there are many emotions involved as well. Due
to the emotions that are involved, people might not be always taking the right
My opinion on whether euthanasia should be legalized or not is very
straightforward. I am completely for the idea of passive euthanasia to be
legalized. The simple reason being that it helps the patient to get rid of the
pain and not only does it stop the suffering of the person but also ends the
suffering of the patients family members. Coming to the specifics, non-voluntary
euthanasia is something that I am not quite convinced about. I feel the idea
that others get to pick whether you live or not is something that is not
justified. I also personally feel that it is against the right to life that is
vested upon each individual irrespective of anything.
Each individual also has the right to make their own decsions when it comes to
something of such a severe nature. People feel that if euthanasia is legalized,
then the number of deaths will also increase. The above statement can be
disapproved by this example that took place in Oregon, USA. 122 people were
given life-ending prescriptions and out of these 122, only 71 took it and died.
This accounted for only 2.2 deaths per 1000 in the entire state. The above
example shows that even if euthanasia is legalized, it does not mean that the
number of deaths will increase. Overall, I am in favour of passive euthanasia
for the reasons stated above. The other types of euthanasia being legalized is
something that I am not in favour of.
Law Article in India
You May Like
Legal Question & Answers