Euthanasia- Right to Die with Dignity
India being a democratic country retains power to govern the country with the citizens i.e. it is of the people, for the people and from the people. An individual is clothed with basic rights as and when he takes birth. The rights and duties imposed upon citizens by the Constitution of the country are co-relative which means a right always rests upon a person on whom any duty is imposed. Rights and duties move hand-in-hand. The right to live with dignity would also be likewise interpreted as Right to Die with dignity. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which provides for ‘Right to Life’ as a basic and inherent right for all citizens as well as non-citizens. Right to life is incorporated as a fundamental right under the constitution and it does not provide for the right to be killed by another person. However, in certain circumstances, where the person is suffering from a disease which is very painful and gradually getting worse making the person pray for death constitutes the concept of “Right to Die with Dignity”. This raises the question that whether ‘Right to Life’ includes ‘Right to Die with Dignity’. Whether people should be made to suffer with the illness or they should be assisted to get themselves killed and get freedom from the never-ending pain.
Euthanasia is derived from two Greek words- ‘Eu’ means good and ‘Thantos’ means death. Combining the two, the meaning of Euthanasia is good death. It is a demonstration or practice of finishing the life of an individual experiencing a terminal ailment or in a hopeless condition by infusion or by suspending additional standard clinical treatment to free him of horrendous torment or from terminal sickness. Euthanasia may be defined as an intentional killing of an individual by an act or omission with the motive of ending the pain due to illness which will ultimately result in death.
TYPES OF EUTHANASIA
Where the patient explicitly demands for willful or conscious execution, it is referred as a voluntary euthanasia. Legal provisions of various nations have rendered this mechanism as legitimate and unlawful, therefore, it is decriminalized. A few nations observe it as a homicide or manslaughter yet based on the special cases that fulfill all the essential conditions, it is still not considered as a criminal murder and such a person will not be prosecuted.
When a willful execution is led on a patient who cannot give his consent expressly because of the severe medical condition he is suffering from constitutes non-voluntary euthanasia. In such circumstances the option is left to other relevant individual who shall be deemed to take a decision in the interest of the patient. Therefore, the inability to give an express consent by the patient due to being unconscious or legally incompetent at a particular point of time is regarded as non-voluntary euthanasia. Where a person as announced his intention to terminate his life but is not capable to do so himself, such circumstances are referred as non-voluntary euthanasia. However, the point of competency of a person to enter into a contract comes into play as children are not permitted to end their life by way of euthanasia as they are not legally competent to contract and this rule is applied globally, but it may be acknowledged in certain exceptional circumstances.
In this type of euthanasia, the execution is performed on a patient who is capable of giving a conscious consent, yet either by the prediction that he would not prefer death or on the grounds that he was not informed or inquired, constitutes involuntary euthanasia and it is considered as a murder.
When the medical practitioners do not perform the treatment necessary to keep the patient alive or when they deliberately switch off the life-support machines, disconnect feeding tube, cease to carry life-enhancing operations and cease to medicate the patient with life-enhancing drugs, all such activities constitute passive euthanasia.
The use of hazardous and powerful substances and actions to execute a patient’s life whether performed by the patient himself or by any other person constitutes active euthanasia. The forcible execution of a patient’s life, who is in a vegetative state, takes place in active euthanasia. Active euthanasia is considered to be morally better as it is rapid and cleaner being less painful for the patient.
EUTHANASIA IN INDIA
Euthanasia is evidently considered to be unlawful in India and the permission to start the practice of euthanasia is a matter of active discussion in various nations. The prior planning of killing an individual who is suffering from a serious illness is unmistakably illegal and is treated as a criminal activity in most of the nations. The Supreme Court has stated that though Right to Life is a privilege to an individual’s life and it clearly excludes right to die yet it did not completely exclude the possibility of passive form of euthanasia. Either assortment of deliberate killing, that is, willful extermination is hoped to be upheld by virtue of a person who is fundamentally sick since a critical time interval, and all desires for his recovery or improvement are blocked and there exists no further expectation. A large part of the time, the patients are found to have lost their perception and their life is drawn out consistently by created techniques. It is battled, that it is more intelligent to let quite an individual pass away thusly so he gets facilitated of the difficulty, inconvenience and anguish in a respectable way.
The 196th Law Commission Report in 2006, ruled out The Mental Treatment of Terminally Sick Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2006. The Health Ministry was not in favor of drafting any law on euthanasia. On March 7, 2011, while hearing proceedings in the Aruna Shanbaug v. Union of India case, the Supreme Court set down regulations to process supplications for passive form of euthanasia. It said that until the Parliament drafts out enactment, the systems set somewhere near the directives ought to be followed. In August 2012, the Law Commission again proposed drafting enactment on passive euthanasia and set out a draft bill called the Medical Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients (insurance of patients and clinical specialists) bill.
The self-administration of a patient is major concern as he shall be the one requesting for death and truly wishes to end his life. The patient who wishes to die is having the knowledge of his serious medical condition and has given a thought as to what will be better for his family, nation and any other person. The purpose of death in case of euthanasia is to relieve a person from the unbearable pain that is incurable making him wish for death every second. However, if there is any other sensible and worthy alternate rather than euthanasia then in that particular case, the alternate would be given priority. All physicians are not permitted to practice euthanasia and there are certain clinical experts who are allowed, which are considered as authorities of euthanasia.
Euthanasia or mercy killing is a practice to kill those individuals who are suffering from serious medical conditions are undergoing unbearable pain, making them pray for life each and every second of their life. The hardships faced by the family members and relatives of such patients would only come to an end when the patient dies. The resources are wasted on patients who cannot be cured and are themselves depressed with their illness which is ultimately going to result in death someday. So, euthanasia as a practice aims to provide relief to the patient and his or her near ones to end the painful survival. Right to die with dignity is uplifted by the practice of euthanasia and the essence of human life is to live a respectful life and not to force an individual to live a life that is unworthy or against a person’s choice. A basic standard for living life must be maintained and in case of deteriorating health to a level that makes it impossible to live without pain, mercy killing would help the person in getting relief. However, at the same the time, the practice of euthanasia must not be misused for taking any innocent life that could have been cured by proper medical treatment or against any person’s wish to live. The trust relationship that exists between a doctor and a patient must not be abused in any way through the practice of euthanasia. Both moral and psychological factors play a vital role in mercy killing. The medical ethics, standards, morals and public policy must be positioned at the top while dealing with such cases where the option of euthanasia is to be selected.
4. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug Vs Union Of India and Ors (Cr) 115 2009
5. Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab AIR 96 SC (2) 648 1996
By Mridul Bansal
BBA LL.B (H)
4th Year Gitarattan International Business School, Delhi