Euthanasia or Mercy killingTags :
Why in news: Recently, a nine-year-old boy died of a rare blood disease just within two hours after his mother had applied for his mercy killing in court.
- In the Aruna Shanbaug case, the SC has said that active euthanasia ‘entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill a person, e.g. a lethal injection.’
- This means that a terminally ill patient is administered a lethal drug or substance intentionally in order for them to pass away peacefully, in this case, in the event of a terminal illness.
- Passive euthanasia also called negative euthanasia or non-aggressive euthanasia is the deliberate withholding or withdrawal of medical treatment with the intention of allowing a terminally ill patient to die.
- This can involve turning off respiratory systems, stopping the life-sustaining medication, or even withholding food and water so the patient dies from starvation or dehydration.
- It is called ‘passive’ because no action that actively kills the patient is taken — like a lethal injection — but rather, all life-sustaining measures are stopped and medication that could prolong life is withheld.
- Since March 2018, passive euthanasia is legal in India under strict guidelines. Patients must consent through a living will, and must be either terminally ill or in a vegetative state.
- Recognizing “living wills” made by terminally-ill patients, the Supreme Court has held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right.
- A specially constituted medical board will be the final authority on when and in which circumstance passive euthanasia is medically justified.
What is ‘living will’?
- A living will is a written document allowing a patient to give instructions in advance about the medical treatment to be administered when he/she is terminally ill or no longer able to express informed consent, including withdrawing life support if a medical board declares that all lifesaving medical options have been exhausted.
- However, there is no way a living will provision can be made foolproof requiring no intervention of the doctor or immediate decision-makers around a person.
The debate around mercy killing
- In Gian Kaur vs State of Punjab in 1994 had held that both assisted suicide and euthanasia were unlawful.
- The bench stated that the right to life did not include the right to die, hence overruling the two-judge bench decision in P. Rathinam vs Union of India which struck down section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (attempt to suicide) as unconstitutional.
- However, later in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India, the Supreme Court in March 2011 held that passive euthanasia could be given a nod in case of exceptional circumstances and under strict monitoring of the apex court.
- The court also made a distinction between active and passive euthanasia while declaring their 2011 judgment.
- Shanbaug was a nurse in K.E.M. Hospital in Mumbai who spent 42 years in a vegetative state after being brutally attacked and raped by a sweeper after her shift one night.
- Voluntary euthanasia is legal in countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, the Netherlands, and assisted suicide, if within the prescribed rules, is legal in Switzerland, Germany, and the US states of Oregon, Vermont, California, Montana, Colorado, and Washington DC.
Source:- The Hindu