“I’m not afraid of being dead. I’m just afraid of what you might have to go through to get there.” ― Pamela Bone (A reputed Journalist)
This quote gives us a fair idea about the fact that sometimes people with terminal illness would rather like to embrace death ‘peacefully’ than clinging on to life filled with intractable pain and suffering.
Firstly, some you must be thinking what is euthanasia. The word ‘Euthanasia’ is derived from Greek word, ‘Eu’ meaning ‘good’ and ‘thanatos’ meaning ‘death’, together it means ‘good death’.
Euthenasia can take place in several scenarios.
Whether euthanasia should be legal or not is a timeless debate. Through this article I will be giving arguments that support the legalisation of euthanasia.
#1 To live or to die is a choice one deserves to make themselves.
Our whole life on earth is spent making Decisions: we choose everything from small decisions like what to eat or what to wear and we even make life-altering decisions like who to marry and which career to pursue, hence, many argue that humans should get the right to choose when they want to die. However Religious opponents of euthanasia believe that life is given by God, and only God should decide when to end it.
Other opponents fear that if euthanasia will be made legal, the laws regulating it would be exploited, and people would be killed who don’t wish to die, which more or less is correct but that is a problem with several laws; For instance, when the use of guns became legal in the USA a lot of illegal shootings occurred, so by saying euthanasia will be exploited we are being rather hypocritical.
#2 Even though many argue that euthenasia affects the family members of the patient negatively, a case study was done to assess how euthanasia in terminally ill cancer patients affects the grief response of bereaved family and friends that says otherwise.
189 bereaved family members and close friends of terminally ill cancer patients who died by euthanasia and 316 bereaved family members and close friends of comparable cancer patients who died a natural death between 1992 and 1999 have been recorded saying it had no negative impact.
The results showed that the bereaved family and friends of cancer patients who died by euthanasia had less traumatic grief symptoms, less current feeling of grief, and less post-traumatic stress reactions than the family and friends of patients who died of natural causes. These differences were independent of other risk factors.
#3 Euthanasia also eliminates the fear of financial burden; A survey in the state of Oregon, where euthanasia is legal, showed that 66% of euthanasia requests involved patients who did not wish to be a financial burden, according to the New Zealand-based Life Information Website.
Inadequate funding for care and pain management, and governments’ reliance on nursing houses, all contribute to the difficulties felt by many who reach old age, endure frustrating physical limitations, or are afflicted with debilitating conditions, the site says.
However, doctors are one of the main opponents against the Bill, understandably, as it breaks their Hippocratic oath of ethics. They are faced with a huge bioethics conundrum that they are essentially playing God. Many doctors also believe that by performing euthenasia many patients would prefer not to them for medical advice since many people brought up a metaphor – No one would trust a chef that adds poison to the food of customers.
If we carefully examine the opposition to the legalization of euthanasia, we can conclude that the most important point that the opponents raise is the fact that it leads to misuse by many. Thus, it is submitted that when a patient or their relatives can willingly put their life in the hands of the doctor trusting them, then why can’t a doctor be given such discretion to decide what will be in favor of his patient. Another doubt that is often raised, is that if doctors will be given discretion to practice voluntary euthanasia then surely it will gradually lead to asking for involuntary or non-voluntary euthanasia. But it is humbly submitted that a separate legislation should be made allowing only voluntary euthanasia and not involuntary or non-voluntary euthanasia.
As has already been pointed out earlier, we also have to keep in mind the limited medical facilities available in India and the number of patients. This question still lies open, that who should be provided with those facilities; a terminally ill patient or to the patient who has fair chances of recovery. As the patient himself out of his pain and agony is asking for death, doctors should not increase that pain of his, and should allow euthanasia.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUICIDE AND EUTHANASIA:
There is a theoretical distinction between suicide and euthanasia.
When someone commits suicide or decides to do so, one intentionally attempts to take his life. It is an act or instance of intentionally killing oneself due to several problems such as failure in examinations, different mental illnesses, etc.
On the other hand, in euthanasia, there is some action of another person to essentially end the life of a third person i.e. a third person is either actively or passively involved in other words he abets the killing of another person.
A CASE STUDY- ARUNA’s CASE
Aruna Shanbaug, who had a job as a nurse at KEM Hospital, was assaulted on the night of 27th November, 1973 by a ward boy. The attack left Aruna blind, paralysed and speechless and she went into a coma from which she never came out. She is taken care of by KEM hospital nurses and doctors. However, the woman does not wish to live any more. The doctors have told her that there is no chance of improvement in her case. So, Aruna, through her ‘next friend’ Journalist Pinki Virani, decided to move the Supreme Court of India with a plea to direct the KEM Hospital not to force feed her.
On 16th December 2009, the Supreme Court of India admitted the woman’s plea to end her life. The Supreme Court bench compromised Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices B S Chauhan and A K Ganguly agreed to examine the benefits of the petition and sought answers from the Union Government, Commissioner of Mumbai Police and Dean of KEM Hospital.
On 24th January 2011, the Supreme Court of India responded to the plea filed by Aruna’s friend journalist Pinki Virani for euthanasia, by setting up a medical panel to examine her. The three-member medical committee thereafter set up under the Supreme Court’s directive, checked upon Aruna and concluded that she met “most of the criteria of being in a permanent vegetative state”. However, it turned down the mercy killing petition on 7th March, 2011. The court, in its landmark judgment, however, allowed passive euthanasia in India. While rejecting Pinki Virani’s plea for Aruna Shanbaug’s euthanasia, the court laid out guidelines for passive euthanasia. According to these guidelines, passive euthanasia involves the withdrawing of treatment or food that would allow the patient to live.
Ms. Shanbaug has, however, changed forever India’s approach to the contentious issue of euthanasia. The verdict on her case today allows passive euthanasia contingent upon circumstances. So, other Indians can now argue in court for the right to withhold medical treatment – take a patient off a ventilator, for example, in the case of an irreversible coma. Today’s judgement makes it clear that passive euthanasia will “only be allowed in cases where the person is in persistent vegetative state or terminally ill.”
Therefore it is suggested that penal provision regarding attempts to commit suicide and abetment to suicide should be preserved in the interests of the society as a general rule but euthanasia (voluntary) should be permitted in certain circumstances as an exception to the general rule. Thus, In my opinion, the Indian Parliament should enact a law regarding euthanasia which enables a doctor to end the painful life of a patient suffering from an incurable disease with the consent of the patient. The Parliament should lay down some circumstances under which euthanasia will be lawful as bellow;
A) Consent of the patient must be obtained
B) Failure of all medical treatments or when the patient, suffering from a terminal disease, is in an irremediable conditions or has no chance to recover or survival as he suffering from a painful life or the patient has been in coma for 20/30 years,
C) The economic or financial condition of the patient or his family is very low,
D) Intention of the doctor must not be to cause harm,
E) Proper safeguard must be taken to avoid abuse of it by doctors,
F) Any other circumstances relevant to the particular case
Thus, Euthanasia could be legalized, but the laws would have to be very stringent. Every case will have to be carefully monitored taking into consideration the point of views of the patient, the relatives and the doctors. But whether Indian society is mature enough to face this, as it is a matter of life and death, is yet to be seen.