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Should Active Euthanasia be made legal in India?

On March 09th 2018, the Supreme Court of India declared that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right and allowed passive euthanasia in the county. With this development, many started wondering, whether “Active Euthanasia” should also be made legal in the county.

Before jumping to that question, let us first understand euthanasia in brief.

Euthanasia or mercy killing is a practice of consciously ending a life to relieve the person, bird or animal of suffering and pain. It can be classified into three types –

  • Voluntary euthanasia – is done with the consent of the patient.
  • Non-voluntary euthanasia – is done when the patient is incapable for giving consent or when the relatives, guardians, family or parents give the consent on behalf of the terminally ill or comatose patient.
  • Involuntary euthanasia – is done against the will of the patient and regarded as murder or homicide.

Euthanasia can further be classified into active and passive euthanasia –

Passive Euthanasia – involves withholding or limiting of the life-sustaining treatments by the doctors, in order to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient. It is legal in countries such as India, Germany, Finland, etc.

Active Euthanasia – involves the usage of lethal forces or substance (such as lethal injections, etc.) to perform euthanasia on the patient to end his/ her sufferings. It is legal in countries such as Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium.

When the physician assists the patient in bringing about his/ her own death, it is known as assisted suicide. It is legal as countries such as Switzerland and US states of Washington, Vermont, California, etc.

Arguments against the legalisation of Active Euthanasia in India:

  • Arguments based on religious beliefs -
    • God’s biggest gift to anyone is his/ her life. Ending this life would be a great insult to God.
    • One’s pain and suffering is a result of his/ her deeds in life (karma). S/he will have to complete the chakra of Karma in this life only in order to lead a better afterlife.
    • Miracles happen in life only. One never knows when a comatose person may come out of coma or when a disease is cured.
  • Arguments based on ethics –
    • It is in complete violation of medical morals, ethics and policy, which call for nursing, healing and caring of the patients.
    • Acceptance of active euthanasia is slippery road, which may lead to involuntary euthanasia as well.
  • Arguments based on practical life –
    • With ever advancing medicines, even the incurable diseases are being cured. One should have the patience and faith in science and God.
    • Monitoring and regulating euthanasia is a difficult task in India and there may be abuse of the same.
  • It will become an easy option to those whose answer to every suffering is suicide. Also, vulnerable section of the society (poor people, differently abled persons, etc.) might fall prey to it.

Arguments favouring the legalisation of Active Euthanasia in India:

  • Arguments based on human rights –
    • If one has the ‘right to live’, s/he also has the ‘right to die’.
    • Article 21 of Indian Constitution provides Indian the ‘right to live with dignity’. A person who is in great agony will never be able to live a life with dignity, not even in his/ her mind.
  • Rights such as ‘freedom of belief’ and ‘right to privacy’ provide the person with the ‘right to decide when and how to die’.
  • Arguments based on resources – Euthanasia will ensure that the medical resources are provided to the person who wants it and is in dire need of it, and not to the one who doesn’t want it.
  • Not only patient but patient’s family and friends are also relieved of the mental agony and unbearable pain, not to mention the relief from the financial troll due to medical care.
  • Arguments based on ethics – Euthanasia has an altruistic aspect as it painlessly help people escape from their prolonged pain and sufferings.
  • In some cases, the patient can also donate his/ her healthy organs to the someone who is in need of them after the euthanasia has been performed, thus, s/he will die not only with dignity but also with a feeling of helping others after life as well.

Conclusion:

All the points in favour or aganist the legalisation of active euthanasia are valid. The opinions on the 'Right to die' are subjective, but what is not subjective is that 'Every life is important'. And if the Government or the Supreme Court does allow active euthanasia in India, one is thing that has to be ensured is the strict regulation and monitoring of the right so as to prevent its abuse.

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