Definition of Euthanasia” According to Greek “Euthanasia means ‘good death’. In common parlance euthanasia means putting to death painlessly specially in order to release a man from incurable suffering. It is also called ‘Mercy Killing’.
Yesterday the Indian Supreme Court headed by a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice R.M.Lodha, justices J.S.Khehar, Chalameshwar, A.K.Sikri and Rohinton Nariman had issued a notice to all States And Union Territories in a PIL filed by Common Cause, an NGO after hearing Counsel Prashant Bhushan and Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi- as why euthanasia shouldn’t be legalized in view of Article 21 of the Constitution of India-Which says “no one should be deprived of his right to life and personal liberty except in accordance with due process of law and the Right to life includes “Right To die with dignity” and the country is now engaged in a nationwide debate regarding ethicality and legality of this issue.
Mr.Prashant Bhushan Counsel for the petitioner submitted that persons with chronic terminal diseases and likely to get into a permanent vegetative state must have right to execute “Living Will” to refuse treatment and die. He contended that when a medical expert opined that the person the person with the terminal disease had reached a point of no return then he or she should be given the right to refuse being put on a life-support system.
Mr.Rohtagi, AG of India submitted that passive euthanasia was a form of suicide which couldn’t ber allowed as it would amount to an offence. The issue pertained not only to the Constitution but also involved morality, religion, medical science and Social issues. He further submitted that right to die merely because of pain and suffering wouldn’t be in the interest of society and was against public policy. Only Parliament could make and change the law and legislature alone has the right to make a law in this regard after nationwide debate and allowing passive euthanasia may lead to misuse. Earlier Judgment of the Supreme Court in Aruna Shanbaug-upholding the validity of Passive Euthanasia was wrong.
Chief Justice drew the attention of counsel to the fact that what was least painful way to bring life to an end was debatable and a final decision has to be arrived at.
Considering the important questions of law to be decided Senior Advocate T.R.Andhyarjina was appointed as Amicus Curiae by the court in this case.
My Conclusion: I concur with Mr.Prashant Bhushan’s submission as above. The Supreme court should lay down guidelines for the Parliament to follow and enact a suitable legislation for bringing in “Living Will” as is prevalent in the west allowing “Passive Euthanasia” or Physician Euthanasia so as to prevent its possible misuse
Meaning of Living Will: A living Will is a written directive/Wish to the family physician , health care providers to stop medical care if the person becomes terminally ill and unable to express his/her wishes about stopping treatment.
The following guidelines should be kept in mind before legalizing Physician Assisted Euthanasia:
1. The disease is incurable
2. The patient suffering is unbearable/
3. The patient condition is terminal.
4. The patient requests death in the above conditions in his/her ‘Living Will”
5,. Two Expert Medical Opinions should be taken before terminating the life of a terminally ill patient.
6. Protecting the terminally ill patients and their loved ones from financial hardships.
7. Protecting the terminally and their loved ones from unwanted intrusions into their personal affairs.
As regards the Hon’ble CJ’s direction- that “What is the best mode of Passive Euthanasia”, is best left to the Expert opinions of Health care Providers depending on the available advancements in Medical Science and Technology at the time of Passive Euthanasia, based on which -the Health Care providers decide the least painful mode of administering least painful medicines to the above mentioned terminally ill patients to put an end to their unbearable pain and suffering and thereby end their life or do “Passive Euthanasia”/PAE/Mercy Killing.
Hence “Passive Euthanasia” or Physician Assisted Euthanasia should be strictly based on “Living Will Wishes of the terminally ill patients”, and only be applied keeping in mind my aforementioned guidelines.
In view of the foregoing -All the Concerned Authorities the law makers- the Legislatures and the Supreme Court alike should permit Passive Euthanasia and respect living Will wishes of the terminally ill patients who should write a ‘Living Will’, during their healthy times that in the event of their becoming terminally ill-they/their loved ones will’ve a right to refuse medical treatment and put an end to their life.
Living Will and Passive Euthanasia Legislations should be given wide publicity and as is with Law of Wills every Indian should be made well aware of these provisions of law as well. The person writing a ‘Living Will’ should be above 18 years and should be in a sound state of mind as is the case with Law of Wills.
I’m strongly of the view that – “Passive Euthanasia”, is ethical and be legalized keeping my above suggestions in mind.