Opinion: Euthanasia - dignified death to a dignified life

Written By: Jhalak Nagpal WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Mar 11, 2018, 04:50 AM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( Zee News Network )

In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra upheld that the 'fundamental right to life and dignity' includes 'right to refuse treatment and die with dignity'.

In three concurring opinions, the bench said the right to a dignified life extends up to the point of having a dignified death.

By allowing euthanasia and, at the same time, spelling out strict guidelines on how it is permissible, the apex court has walked a step further in recognizing the exact interpretation of ‘right to live with human dignity’ mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. 

However, for some, legalising euthanasia would mean to send a message to those contemplating suicide that life was not important.

So, what is it? Murder or mercy killing?

Also read: Euthanasia and Aruna Shanbaug: The case that started it all

In several other countries, the fundamental right to a meaningful existence also includes a person's choice to die without suffering.

A person can choose not to remain in a vegetative state on a life support system if a person goes into a state when it will not be possible to express their wishes. 

A term which originated from the case of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, who had been lying in a PVS in the KEM hospital Mumbai for 42 years. 

But many may take up the advanced directive owing to the other environmental or community pressure, which is definitely not a suffering.  

Therefore, it becomes important to differentiate and clearly understand what the SC meant by Euthanasia.

Passive euthanasia involves withholding or discontinuing treatment for a terminally ill person whereas active euthanasia involves injecting a lethal dose to a terminally ill person. 

And active euthanasia is banned in India.

The outcome of the Passive euthanasia is a progressive and humane verdict that lays down a broad legal framework for protecting the dignity of a terminally ill patient or one in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) with no hope of cure or recovery. 

In other words, it is about accelerating the process of death for reducing the period of suffering of a terminally ill person, who has no chance of practical recovery.   

What is the point of burdening a dying patient with life-prolonging treatment and equipment just because medical technology has advanced? 

Doing so would be destructive of his or her dignity.

And therefore in such a situation, individual interest has to be given priority over the state interest.

And this is exactly what Supreme Court allowed. 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL) 

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