Euthanasia

It hath been often said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible. – Henry Fielding

Introduction

Euthanasia is the practice or act of putting to death a person who is suffering from a terrible and incurable sickness in order to relieve their suffering. Euthanasia is also termed “mercy killing”. Euthanasia can be carried out in the following ways:

  1. by incapacitating physical disorder, or
  2. by withdrawing treatment (passive means to cause death), or
  3. by introducing or administering medicinal drug (active means to cause death), or
  4. by withdrawing artificial life-support system.

Types of Euthanasia

  1. Active euthanasia: In active euthanasia, the victim dies when medical experts, or anyone else, purposefully performs a positive act, such as injecting a lethal substance or overdosing the victim with a drug that would not have killed the person if not for the overdose, resulting in the person’s death.
  2. Passive euthanasia: It is defined as hastening death by eliminating life support and allowing natural death to occur. When the patient’s chances of recovery are unknown, the aforementioned procedure is used to enable the patient to die naturally. This strategy entails failing to undertake extraordinary acts such as turning off life support, cutting off food and drink, and permitting natural death by dehydration or refusing CPR (cardio-pulmonary-resuscitation).

Other types of Euthanasia

  • Voluntary: In this case, the patient themselves requests for euthanasia either orally or in writing, preferring over continuing to live in pain. As a result, both passive and active euthanasia can be carried out at the desire of the patient.
  • Involuntary: In this case, the person is unable to consent to the euthanasia decision on their own. As a result, this procedure is applied to situations of brain-death, coma patients, and so on.
  • Non-voluntary: In this case, a person is competent yet refuses to consent to euthanasia. Hence, this form is a direct case of homicide.

Legal aspects of euthanasia in India

  • Rathinam v. Union of India: In this case, it was held that Section 309 IPC is in violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Court deemed the clause to be cruel and unreasonable, as it would punish a person who had already undergone anguish and would face humiliation as a result of his failure to commit suicide. Furthermore, an act of suicide cannot be claimed to be contrary to religion, morals, or public policy, and an act of attempted suicide has no negative impact on society and causes no harm to others, making states’ interference with the personal liberty of those involved unjustified.
  • Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab: The above judgement in Rathinam was overturned in this case, wherein it was held that “right to life” is inherently inconsistent with the “right to die” as is “death” with “life”. In addition, the right to life, which encompasses the right to live with human dignity, would imply the existence of such a right until death. It may also include“death with dignity,”however this should not be confused with unnatural extinction of life that shortens one’s natural lifespan. In addition, the legality of Section 309 IPC, which makes“attempt to suicide” a crime, was affirmed, overturning the Rathinam ruling.
  • After almost a decade, India’s Law Commission issued the 196th Report on Terminally ill Patients in 2006, recommending that ‘passive euthanasia’ be legalised in a very rigorous and supervised manner. The Report made it clear that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide will remain illegal, and it solely addressed patient protection in terminally ill patients who are in a permanent vegetative state with no possibility of recovery. In such a circumstance, the patient can freely request the termination of the support system, so hastening his death, albeit subject to certain protections. The doctors have a legal obligation to thoroughly tell the patient about his condition and prospects, as well as to maintain him on life support against his choice. According to the Report, this request is presented as a directive from a terminally ill patient to the doctor, and the doctor who acts under such directives is protected under Section 306 IPC. In addition, in circumstances when the patient is incapacitated, the nearest friend must obtain a mandatory clearance from the High Court before withdrawing life support.
  • Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India: The Supreme Court in this case refused the above mentioned Report of the Law Commission, yet passive euthanasia was made legal without any legislation under the guidelines provided there under. Active euthanasia, on the other hand, is prohibited under the current statutes unless and until Parliament passes a particular law in this regard. In addition, the Court stated that active euthanasia is without a doubt a criminal offence punishable under Section 302 or at least 304 IPC when carried out by anyone, and when carried out by a doctor as physician assisted suicide (PAS) is punishable under Section 306. The Supreme Court has determined that active euthanasia will remain unlawful unless the legislature passes a bill making it legal.
  • Common Cause v. Union of India: A writ petition was filed by the Common Cause society praying for declaring ‘right to die with dignity’ as a fundamental right within the fold of ‘right to live with dignity’ guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Bench held that, “the right to die with dignity as fundamental right has already been declared by the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court in Gian Kaur case which we reiterate. We declare that an adult human being having mental capacity to take an informed decision has right to refuse medical treatment including withdrawal from life saving devices. 
  • The Law Commission again in its 241st Report has recommended the legalization of euthanasia.

REFERENCES

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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