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Is Euthanasia Legal in India?

Read about the legal status of Euthanasia in India.
Written by:
Shivi Gupta
Published on
24-Jul-18

The Constitution of India by virtue of Article 21, guarantees to every individual, the Right to live with dignity. However, the question whether the ‘right to die’ comes under the purview of right to life in India has been a constant subject of debate in India. Bollywood movie 'Guzaarish', featuring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai also highlighted the gravity of this issue. In our routine life, we come across many individuals who are incapacitated, completely dependent on others, suffer extreme bodily pain, are on a life support system with very few chances to survive it.

Right to death would be a more favourable choice for an individual fighting for his life rather than living a life at the behest of others. However, the possibility of the misuse of euthanasia cannot be denied. This raises an ethical and legal question that whether the right to die or euthanasia should be guaranteed to an individual or not.

What is Euthanasia?

The word ‘euthanasia’ is a Greek word, which means ‘easy or good death’. Euthanasia means the act or practice of killing or bringing about the death of a person who suffers from an incurable disease or condition, especially a painful one, for reasons of mercy. In general terms, euthanasia is the act of mercifully ending a person’s life in order to release the person from intolerable suffering, pain, misery, and dependency. 

Euthanasia also termed as mercy killing, ensures a less painful death to a person who in turn is going to die death full of pain and suffering. Euthanasia can be classified into 5 types-

  1. Active euthanasia: It is also called ‘positive euthanasia’ or ‘aggressive euthanasia’. It refers to causing the intentional death of a human being by direct intervention, done by giving a lethal dose of any drug, lethal injection or any other means. Active euthanasia is usually a quicker and easier means of causing death.

  2. Passive euthanasia: It is also called ‘negative euthanasia’ or ‘non-aggressive euthanasia’. It is intentionally causing the death of a person by not providing necessary and ordinary care, essential life support or food, water, and medicines. Passive euthanasia is comparatively slower and more uncomfortable than active euthanasia. 

  3. Voluntary euthanasia: Euthanasia is voluntary when it is practiced with express desire and consent of the patient. It is the choice available to the patient to end his life in order to end his unbearable pain and suffering.

  4. Non-voluntary euthanasia: It is the ending the life of a person who does not have the mental or physical capacity to take a decision. In such cases, it is usually the close family members like parents, spouse or children who take the decision. 

  5. Involuntary euthanasia: When a patient is killed without his express will or consent, it is called involuntary euthanasia. When a person is killed against his will, it amounts to murder.

 

Why Euthanasia should be Legal

The arguments in favour of euthanasia are: 

  • If the patient is unable to sustain his life without pain, the decisions of his family members to end his life should be considered.

  • Euthanasia can relieve the pain and suffering and help the patient to die when he is expected to face a lingering death.
  • Euthanasia not only relieves the patient from physical but also the mental pain.
  • The choice of death in certain cases is as fundamental as the right to live. The person should be allowed to chose to live or not when his life is full of pain, suffering and depends on a life support.

Why Euthanasia should not be legal

  • Euthanasia is immoral and devalues human life.

  • No one has the right to take away one’s life as the suffering is based on one’s own karma.

  • There is a bigger possibility of misuse.
  • Euthanasia is similar to suicide and should not be allowed.
  • It is against medical ethics and public policy. Medical ethics call for nursing and taking care of the individual and taking away a life is against the societal norms.
  • Human life is based on hope and therefore, no one should be in the capacity to decide someone’s lifespan.
  • What is the threshold and proximity of pain and when should the decision be taken, are some questions that require answers.

Is Euthanasia legal in India?

Passive euthanasia is legal in India under judicial observation. As per this method, doctors are allowed to pull back life support of patients who are in a changeless vegetative state. Passive euthanasia was made legal in India in Aruna Shanbaug’s case.The bench did not allow active euthanasia but held that passive euthanasia may be allowed in special circumstances subject to certain precautions. 

If the patient is conscious then his own wishes have to be taken into account and if the patient is unconscious, the wishes of near relatives i.e. spouse, parents, children and others have to be taken into account. In case no near relation is available, views of the next friend can be taken. 

Thereafter, the matter has to go to the High Court and a bench of at least two judges have to hear the case. The bench should also have a team of three competent doctors to examine the patient. In addition, the bench has to consider the views of the State and near relations of the patient. The Supreme Court held that this procedure should be followed until the Parliament makes a law on euthanasia in India.

The government is under the process to draft a bill called 'The Management of Patients with Terminal Illness- Withdrawal of Medical Life Support Bill'. The Bill is being drafted in line with the recommendations of the Law Commission of India which states that life support of a patient can be withdrawn when the patient is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) or suffering an irreversible medical condition. 

The Centre opposes the concept of a living will as it could be misused. On allowance of the living will, the people can beforehand declare that they should not be put on life support in case of terminal illness.

Where is Euthanasia Legal?

Euthanasia is one of the most debated issues and involves a moral question upon someone’s life. Therefore, different countries have a different standpoint. Here’s a table of country where euthanasia is legal-

COUNTRY LEGAL STATUS
Australia Illegal
Belgium  Legalised in 2002
Canada  Voluntary active euthanasia allowed to individuals above the age of 18 years whose natural death is progressing
Colombia  Legalised in 2015
France  Prospective laws exist but no final law on the issue is made
Japan Allowed under special circumstances as no law on euthanasia exists
Israel Illegal and considered as murder
UK Illegal
USA Active euthanasia is illegal while some forms of passive euthanasia is allowed in some states
Turkey  Euthanasia in all forms is illegal

 

Euthanasia involves both a moral as well as a legal question as a patient with a terminal illness must be given a choice to decide to live or not to live. However, its misuse cannot be alleviated as well! The parliament is required to weigh the arguments in favour of and against euthanasia to draft a law on euthanasia in India. Talk to the best lawyers in India at MyAdvo to know more. Email us at info@myadvo.in or call us at +919811782573.