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Death tourism: Why Noida man wants to go to Switzerland for euthanasia?

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New Delhi, Aug 13: A woman has approached the Delhi High Court seeking to stop her friend from traveling to Switzerland to undergo euthanasia on account of his debilitating inflammatory disease.

In her plea, the 49-year-old petitioner has sought a direction to the central government not to grant "emigration clearance" to her friend, in his late 40s and suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, who is supposed to travel for the physician-assisted suicide.

Death tourism: Why Noida man wants to go to Switzerland for euthanasia?

The petitioner has stated that her friend was earlier receiving treatment at AIIMS but the same could not continue during the pandemic due to "donor availability issues". The sick man is now planning to go to Switzerland for euthanasia, the practice of ending the life of a patient to limit the patient's suffering. The patient in question would typically be terminally ill or experiencing great pain and suffering. It is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in a growing number of countries. When the consent of the patient is not available, it is non-voluntary euthanasia which is illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.

Right to die in dignity: What the laws in India say about euthanasiaRight to die in dignity: What the laws in India say about euthanasia

Is it Legal in India?
Euthanasia is a crime in India. Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the attempt to commit suicide and Section 306 of the IPC deals with abetment of suicide - both actions are punishable.

'Suicide Tourism' to Switzerland
People across the world come to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is considered a legitimate way to end one's life. Hence, it has earned the tag 'death tourism'.

According to Dignitas, a well-known organisation that accepts non-Swiss applications, more than 90% of its members in 2018 were foreigners.

As per Swiss law, it does not consider suicide a crime or assisting suicide as complicity in a crime. However, it only views it as crime if the motive is selfish. Upon declaring assisted suicide, a police inquiry will begin like in all "unnatural death." Also, prosecution happens only if doubts are raised on the patient's competence to make an autonomous choice.

The application of these practices has become simplified over the years and societies for the right to die with dignity based on this principle have come into being.

According to EXIT, a democratically organised society under Swiss law, Suicide assistance may be rendered whenever the person wishing to die:

  • knows what he or she is doing (faculty of judgement)
  • does not act on impulse (due consideration)
  • has a persistent wish to die (constancy)
  • is not under the influence of any third party (autonomy)
  • commits suicide by his or her own hand (agency)
  • This means that even suicide assistance to young healthy people would technically be legal.

Like EXIT, there are a few other societies including Digintas that provide physician-assisted suicide to members with terminal illness or severe physical or mental illness.

The countries where euthanasia is legal
The Netherlands was the first country to decriminalize voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide by passing a law in 2002.

Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, Colombia, Germany, some US states and Australia are the other nations where voluntary euthanasia is legal.

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