Euthanasia is defined as the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient for the purpose of relieving the patient’s intolerable and incurable suffering. Typically, the physician’s motive is merciful and intended to end suffering.

Types of Euthanasia:

Euthanasia is performed by physicians and has been further defined as “active” or “passive.”

Active euthanasia refers to a physician deliberately acting in a way to end a patient’s life.

Passive euthanasia pertains to withholding or withdrawing treatment necessary to maintain life.

Types of Active Euthanasia:

Voluntary euthanasia is one form of active euthanasia which is performed at the request of the patient.

Involuntary euthanasia, also known as “mercy killing,” involves taking the life of a patient who has not requested for it, with the intent of relieving his pain and suffering.

Legal Status:

● In India, euthanasia is a crime. 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.

● Only those who are brain dead can be taken off life support with the help of family members.

● Likewise, the Honourable Supreme Court, time and again is also of the view that the Right to Life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution does not include the right to die.

● The Court held that Article 21 is a provision guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty and by no stretch of imagination can the extinction of life be read into it.

● However, various pro-euthanasia organizations such as the Death with Dignity Foundation, keep on fighting for legalization of an individual’s right to choose his own death.

Case of Aruna Shanbaug :

● Aruna Shanbaug, who was working as a nurse at KEM Hospital, was assaulted on the night of November 27, 1973 by a ward boy.

● He sodomised Aruna after strangling her with a dog chain. The attack left Aruna blind, paralysed and speechless and she went into a coma from which she has never come out.

● On 16th December 2009, the Supreme Court of India admitted the woman’s plea to end her life. The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices A K Ganguly and B S Chauhan agreed to examine the merits of the petition and sought responses from the Union Government, Commissioner of Mumbai Police and Dean of KEM Hospital.

● A major development took place in this field on 7 March 2011. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, allowed passive euthanasia. Refusing mercy killing of Aruna Shaunbag, lying in a vegetative state in a Mumbai Hospital for 37 years.

● A two-judge bench laid down a set of tough guidelines under which passive euthanasia can be legalized through a High Court monitored mechanism.

● The Court further stated that parents, spouses, or close relatives of the patient can make such a plea to the High Court.

● The Chief justices of the High Courts, on receipt of such a plea, would constitute a bench to decide it.

● The bench in turn would appoint a Committee of at least three renowned doctors to advise them on the matter.


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