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Law on passive euthanasia is need of hour

By Pravin

Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a vegetative state for 37 years at KEM hospital
Euthanasia has always been a burning issue and triggered heated debates in the country. But, its been long time and no unanimous decision on the issue has been reached till date. A fresh row over the issue sparked after Supreme Court issued notices to all States and Union Territories seeking their views on legalising passive euthanasia. The constitution bench of the court headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha issued the notices on a plea asking, whether life support systems can be withdrawn on a terminally ill patient in a vegetative state with no hope of revival.

The apex court has also appointed former solicitor general TR Andhyarujina as amicus curiae to assist it in the case relating to legalizing euthanasia.

The plea, filed by an NGO Common Cause, put that a person, who is afflicted with a terminal disease, should be given relief from agony by withdrawing artificial medical support provided to him.

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia generally refers to the practice of intentionally ending someone's life in order to relieve him/her of pain and suffering.There are different euthanasia laws in each country. Some have legalised it while some have not. Euthanasia can be further divided into Active and Passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is withdrawal of medical treatment with the intention of causing a terminally ill patient's death. For example, if the patient is on life-supporting system, the deliberate removal of it will be passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is deliberately causing the patient's death by injecting with poison or giving an overdose of sleeping pills and other lethal medicines

What is Central Government's stand?

The Central Government has strongly opposed the plea saying it cannot be legalized as it is a form of suicide which is an offence in the country. It said that if euthanasia is legalized, then it will be misused. Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the issue should be debated and decided by the legislature and that it is not a matter to be adjudicated by the court.

Is a Law on euthanasia need of hour?

Doctors are of view that Passive euthanasia should be allowed in some exceptional cases like Aruna Shanbaug. They say it should be legalised and done after legal documentation and consent of a special board at every level. People have been suffering for years together and it is for these people that passive euthanasia should be legalised. Undoubtedly, euthanasia should be legalised as it involve huge wastage of country's resources. There are families which spend the last penny to keep their beloved one's alive. It is important to note here that physician aided death is still being practised across the country, where the patients, with dead-brain, removed from life supporting device with mutual consent between the families and the doctors.

Passive euthanasia should be allowed in exceptional cases like Aruna Shanbaug.

Should be legalised when there is no hope of recovery

In a landmark judgment, on 7 March 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that passive euthanasia was allowed to patients in a permanent vegetative state. The decision was made as part of the verdict in a case involving Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a vegetative state for 37 years at Mumbai's KEM hospital. However, the court turned down Aruna Shanbaug's mercy killing plea and laid a set of tough guidelines under which passive euthanasia can be legalised through high court monitored mechanism. The apex court while framing the guidelines for passive euthanasia asserted that it would now become the law of the land until Parliament enacts a suitable legislation to deal with the issue.

People have the right to choose

People have the right to die with dignity and making euthanasia illegal takes this right away. If someone is terminally ill and has no chance of recovery, then he should be given the choice to live or to die. They should be allowed to die rather than giving them torture.

High chances of law being misused

Such an act can be easily misused rather than its proper utilization. It could be misused as an option for harvesting organs or for financial gains. Euthanasia could also be done due to the patient's inability to afford treatment.

Central Government has rightly said that a highly-sensitive subject like euthanasia need to be debated before taking any decision. As the matter is related to somebody's life, it should be handle with care. Government must show maturity while dealing with the issue.

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