Euthanasia is defined as the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering. In common man's language, it is the termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient. More common name is mercy killing.
Euthanasia can be classified on the basis of
1. CONSENT OF THE PATIENT- According to this, euthanasia could be
(a) VOLUNTARY- where it is conducted with the consent of the patient.
(b) NON-VOLUNTARY- where the consent of the patient is unavailable.
(c) INVOLUNTARY- where it is conducted against the will of the patient.
2. METHOD OF EUTHANASIA-
(a) PASSIVE- involves withholding all medication and treatment.
(b) ACTIVE- involves use of lethal substances.
As of now, active, non voluntary and involuntary euthanasia is illegal is most countries.
Spiritually speaking, we as humans have no right to decide as to who lives and who dies, not even our own life. If God granted us a life, he'll be the only one to take it away from us. But, I'll have to say, in cases where death is the ultimate destination in the near future; one can surely decide to welcome death sooner than later.
As a proponent of euthanasia, I strongly believe that people have a right to SELF-DETERMINATION, and so should be allowed to choose their own fate. Dying is way better than continuing to suffer. Opponents, who have a head over heels optimistic approach to everything, might believe that there is a TREATMENT FOR EVERYTHING and that all deaths might not be painful.
In India, most of the people are poignant and credulous. That’s why accepting and supporting such issues is not easy for them. Where some people think, it is a transgression and crime, other think getting rid from such suffering is indispensable and crucial.
Talking about India, the SUPREME COURT OF INDIA, passed guidelines on 7th March 2011 that is to be considered law till the PARLIAMENT PASSES LEGISLATION. The guidelines state that PASSIVE EUTHANASIA IS LEGAL INDIA. This was in response with the Aruna Shanbaug case.
Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse working at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai on 27 November 1973 when she was strangled and sodomized by Sohanlal Walmiki, a sweeper. During the attack she was strangled with a chain, and the deprivation of oxygen has left her in a vegetative state ever since. She has been treated at KEM since the incident and is kept alive by feeding tube. On behalf of Aruna, her friend Pinki Virani, a social activist, filed a petition in the Supreme Court arguing that the "continued existence of Aruna is in violation of her right to live in dignity". The Supreme Court made its decision on 7 March 2011. The court rejected the plea to discontinue Aruna's life support but issued a set of broad guidelines legalising passive euthanasia in India. The Supreme Court's decision to reject the discontinuation of Aruna's life support was based on the fact the hospital staff that treat and take care of her did not support euthanizing her. As of now, there is no law concerned with euthanasia.
Personally, I don’t agree on SC’s verdict. Firstly and strangely not surprising at all, SC passed its decision after 38 years, a time period, which I believe is beyond limit. And secondly, not granting her the permission to discontinue the life support was outrageously unbelievable. She was living in a condition that death would be preferable over it, any time. And thirdly, SC has no right to decide who lives or who dies. It was the individual’s personal decision to welcome death.
The procedure for euthanasia is complex. Any doctor who feels that his patient’s request to die should be fulfilled would report such a case to the said supervising officer. The supervisor would then interview the patient to satisfy himself whether the request is free, voluntary and persistent. The supervisor would also then refer the case to a minimum of two other experienced doctors to get their opinion on the case. If both the doctors so referred feel that the patient is beyond recovery, that there is no alternate treatment available and that death would be a more suitable option for him then the supervisor would inform the patient’s relatives about the patient’s request and the doctor’s opinion. Finally, the supervisor would issue a certificate allowing the doctor to let the patient die. Such certificate would also have to bear the signatures of the two doctors to whom the case was referred and of the legal guardian of the patient who would, after a talk with the patient, certify that the consent of the patient was not obtained by force.
Though the procedure outlined above may seem cumbersome, it is believed that such safeguards are necessary to minimise the chances of misuse of the right of euthanasia.
The only problematic issue that could arise is regarding the requirement that no other alternative to reduce the pain should be available. Problems could arise when required to decide what is an alternative. Thus would a Rs 5 lakh treatment be an alternative for a person who earns Rs 5000 a year? Similarly, would a treatment available only in Delhi be an alternative for a person living in Port Blair and who cannot afford the passage to Delhi, even if he can afford the treatment? Also, would a doctor be held liable if he is ignorant of any new advancement in medical science? These are problematic issues and would require further extensive discussion. But one should not forget that in a country like India where there is tremendous pressure on the available medical facilities, euthanasia is all the more necessary for the maximum utilisation of the limited facilities.
In the end, we also would do well to remember the following words of Mahatma Gandhi:
“Death is our friend, the truest of friends. He delivers us from agony. I do not want to die of a creeping paralysis of my faculties — a defeated man.”