Medicine

Passive euthanasia: Why is Mumbai couple unhappy with SC decision?

Passive euthanasia: Why is Mumbai couple unhappy with SC decision?

The next to that year on January 31st, The Supreme Court finally asked the parties to file the documents in support to the matter and after 3 years of that on May7th2011, on a separate plea in the matter of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs. Union of India and Others allowed the process of passive euthanasia, where the passive euthanasia was conducted on a nurse who was in a vegetative state for a long time in KEM Hospital in Mumbai.

In a landmark verdict, India's Supreme Court has ruled individuals have a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia.

The living will shall be "clearly stating as to when medical treatment may be withdrawn" or no specific medical treatment shall be given, which will only have the effect of delaying the process of death that may otherwise cause him or her pain, anguish and suffering and further put him or her in a state of indignity, said the bench.

In the sensitivity of Indian context about life and death, test of legality of the idea posed a complex medical, philosophical, constitutional and religious complications for the bench.

AIIMS" assistant professor in the geriatrics department and founder president of Healthy Aging India, Dr Prasoon Chatterjee said recognising the concept of "living will" would give an opportunity to the elderly to opt for "do not resuscitate (DNR)', a concept already established in developed nations.

Passive Euthanasia is the act of helping a terminally ill person in an indirect manner to speed up his inevitable death. By allowing euthanasia and spelling out strict guidelines on how it can be carried out, the Supreme Court has taken a step towards giving the exact interpretation of the "right to live with human dignity" mentioned in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. However, the court issued a set of broad guidelines for legalising passive euthanasia in India. "The safeguards that the court has built in should allay fears that some people may have", he said. Senior Christian priests in Kerala dubbed the judgment as "unfortunate and condemnable", expressing the possibility of misuse. They feel an individual above the age of 75 should have the right to end his or her life. While allowing passive euthanasia, the Supreme Court made some very interesting observations.

Passive euthanasia is the deliberate withdrawal of medical treatment with the intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient.

He said, "Till now advanced medical directives did not have legal validity in our country".

"This is in contrast to care which is driven by the medical industry whose heroic interventions to extend life can cause enormous suffering to the dying person while only delaying the inevitable, also emotionally and financially exhausting families. If we move away from this principle, there would be far-reaching repercussions in our society", he told PTI. He was seen on the TV lauding the verdict as a "historical ruling" and said, "The whole world takes birth crying, but Mahavira taught us to die laughing".

Aruna died in May 2015 after suffering pneumonia. "Sometimes, she rewarded us with a smile and that was all we wanted".

The legal fraternity said the verdict has brought clarity to doctors, patients and their relatives on what is permitted and what is not. Medical ethics demand doctors educate patients and relatives about the implications and effectiveness of life support systems like ventilators, but commercial imperatives of hospitals triumph all too often.


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