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Euthanasia Not Permitted In India

Updated on August 18, 2014

SLIPPERY SLOPE TOWARDS EUTHANASIA

“Marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki, Maut aati hai par nahin aati" Mirza Ghalib

Life is precious and none of us have right to end it. But some time due to unfortunate accident or prolong illness this precious gift becomes a burden and then that person is forced to live his life as a never ending punishment. Person which is in such a situation, if capable of taking his own decision may requests for assisted suicide or if such person is in state of coma or PVS (Persistent Vegetative State), where due to his position, he could not take decision on his own, the family members may after seeing pain and suffering of their loved one may request authority to allow euthanasia.

Euthanasia is ending life of a person who due to permanent non-functioning of significant cognitive function lost purpose of life or is suffering from unbearable pain and depression, on compassionate grounds without any self-interest or greed. Euthanasia may be active and passive. Active Euthanasia means taking direct steps to end terminally ill person by injecting lethal substance like sodium pentothal in which a person goes in deep sleep and instantaneously dies in a deep sleep or any other means. Passive euthanasia means instead of terminating a life of a person directly, but accelerating conclusion of the process of natural death which has already commenced by withdrawing life support system or keeping that person on starvation resulting into accelerating the death. Euthanasia can also be classified into voluntary and non-voluntary. Voluntary Euthanasia is also called assisted suicide where the person due to incurable ill-ness or pain is in such a depress state of mind where he himself desire his death. Voluntary Euthanasia/ Assisted Suicide technically do not come under the category of Euthanasia in a strict sense. Non-Voluntary Euthanasia means, as the person is in a state of coma or PVS where he himself could not take decision on his own, the family member or next best friend request to government authority to terminate the life of that person.

Many nations are now changing their prospective towards Euthanasia. In 2002 Netherlands has passed Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedure) Act, 2002. This act states that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are not punishable if the attending physician acts in accordance with the criteria of due care. Switzerland has an unusual position on assisted suicide: it is legally permitted and can be performed by non-physicians. However, euthanasia is illegal, the difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia being that while in the former the patient administers the lethal injection himself, in the latter a doctor or some other person administers it.

In India there is no law which governs Euthanasia. However there are many judicial pronouncements indicating position in respect to Euthanasia in India. In Gyan Kaur V/s. State of Punjab the Hon’ble Supreme Court denied right to die as constitutional right. It is stated that right to die with dignity at the end of life could not be equivalent to right to die an unnatural death curtailing the natural span of life.

From decades there are various debates on the issue of Euthanasia. People who are against Euthanasia consider it a sin and an act against the wish of god. They believe that no one has a right to destroy the creature of god. According to the law of karma, the soul who has attained a human body has been put there to reform his life and finally attain liberation, in a spiritual body free from birth and death. The soul's term in the human form is a type of captivity. How long one stays captive and how much one enjoys or suffers depend on his previous acts. To kill oneself or someone else interrupts the soul's prescribed term of embodiment. This goes against natural law, or God's law, and generates further reactions or penalties. By karmic law, one who commits suicide becomes a ghost. They also argue that Euthanasia is most often performed for reasons other than to relieve physical pain. The main reasons for which people want euthanasia are depression, isolation, psychological maladjustment, and lack of care. Some families’ wants to keep their loved one alive in a hope that in future a new technology may develop which could restore the good heath of the PVS patient.

The people who are in support of Euthanasia generally put their arguments on compassionate grounds. Off course decision on the basis of religion would be difficult if the loved one is bed ridden from many years and he is in such a state where his body has become thinner like feather, bone could break even by holding the body part for support, brain is dead, could not swallow any food item on his own, suffering from immense pain and there is no chances for recovery.

I belong to second category but I have a great respect for both type of ideology because both are concern with the benefit of terminally ill patient. The only difference is that the First ideology in futuristic and the Second ideology in based on present position of the terminally ill person.

However if we think that the performance of Euthanasia is ethical and should be permitted even than there are still various serious issues which require consideration, especially in context of India, where corruption and many other social evils exist. First major issue is whether a doctor can be permitted to perform Euthanasia. Undoubtedly medical service is one of the most noble profession because it is for the benefit of human kind. Most of the doctors perform their duties diligently however we could not deny that there are some doctors which could go to any extent for the sake of money. We have heard many times that a doctor arrested by police for selling body organs of some persons without their permission. What is a guarantee that such doctors will not prepare false report or perform Euthanasia to hatch money? Whether it is in best interest of patient should the responsibility of Euthanasia be given to Competent Body of Medical Persons?

In India Passive Euthanasia with prior approval of apex court is legal. Medical Practitioner is under no duty to continue to treat such a patient were a large body of informed and responsible medical opinion conferred that no benefit will caused. In substance it is not an act but an omission to struggle and that the omission is not a breach of duty by the doctor as he is not obliged to continue in the hopeless case. The true question is not whether the doctor should take a course in which he will actively kill his patient but rather whether he should continue to provide his patient with medical treatment which if continue will prolong his life. However there always remains a very thin life difference between passive Euthanasia and cutting the oxygen pipe of a sea driver or cutting a rope of a mountaineer.

There is no legislature relating to Active Euthanasia. Therefore in the absence of same it will amount to murder or culpable homicide. If the patient gives his consent for Euthanasia even then it will amount to attempt to Suicide (Section 309 of IPC) and doctor will be booked under abetment to suicide (Section 309 of IPC).

In my opinion it’s a time when the legislatives should invite their attention on this issue. There is a huge burden on Medical Facilities. Hospitals are filled with patients. Some unfortunate die such because they could not get the medical assistance on time. There is no reason why over burden medical establishment specially government undertakings for not allowed to perform Euthanasia when the Doctor feels that there is no chances of recover and family has given their consent. It is not the government authorities which have to bear the pain and sufferings but the family. Therefore the decision shall be of the family and not government authority. However there shall be a regulatory authority to protect the ethical integrity of the medical professionals and stringent punishment for those who want to perform Euthanasia in self-interest and greed.

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