When a person kills himself then it is known as Suicide and if a person kills the other person then it is either murder or culpable homicide. However, if a person gets killed by others on his own request then it is known as Euthanasia. It is derived from a Greek term Eu means Good and Thanatosis means Death. So, Euthanasia literally means good death. Philosopher Francis Bacon coined this term in the seventeenth century.
Why name the term good death “euthanasia”?
Basically, Euthanasia is a practice in which life can be put to an end intentionally to relieve the person from suffering and pain. To define Euthanasia in law terms, it means death at will or mercy killing.
There are types of Euthanasia –
- Active Euthanasia – In active euthanasia, a person directly and knowingly cause the death of the person for euthanasia.
- Passive Euthanasia – In passive euthanasia, a person for euthanasia left to die by removing the life-supporting machines such as Ventilators.
- Voluntary Euthanasia – In Voluntary euthanasia, the person seeking euthanasia request for death.
- Non-Voluntary Euthanasia – In non-voluntary euthanasia, the person for euthanasia is not in the stable mental or emotional condition or he/she is unconscious to understand euthanasia. So, any other person can take the decision of euthanasia on behalf of such person.
- Involuntary Euthanasia – In Involuntary Euthanasia, the person for euthanasia choose life. However, he is killed. This is murder in terms of the law.
Related Acts and Statutes
The bill on euthanasia titled as “Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill, 2016” and it is yet to be declared as law.
Article 226 and 32 of the Constitution of India, 1950
Section 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Euthanasia is not a new concept. Let’s peek into the pages of the history in order to understand the concept more heedfully. In 500 BC, Euthanasia started in the ancient time of Greece and Rome. One of the incidents which came forward was that those who born with severe defects used to put to an end. In fact, Voluntary Euthanasia was an approved custom for the elderly strata of the society.
Historical Position in India
During the Vedic Period, the religious suicides were common and it can be traced from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. While writing commentaries on Manu, Govardana and Kulluka observed that a man may take his death if he is suffering from an incurable disease. There were two views on this –
A) By helping others to end their lives is releasing him from unbearable sufferings.
B) By helping others to end their lives disturbs the cycle of death and rebirth and those who help will take the remaining sins of the deceased person.
But now the views of Hindus have changed.
Muslims are not in favor of Euthanasia. Their belief is that God gave them life and it’s his choice how long people will live. Christians also hold the same viewpoint.
Object of the law
The object of the law here is to give a right to die to those people who suffer an unbearable pain or suffering from an incurable disease and such suffering should be from a reasonable period of time.
Major Points and Issues of Discussions
The Pending Bill
The bill related to Passive Euthanasia is enacted with the title “Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients Bill, 2016” and it is yet to be declared as law.
The Question of Fundamental Right
Basically, the question which always popped up is why people don’t have a right to die? Our constitution provides right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 but that includes the right to life? Are there any standard guidelines which defines life or which defines how to live life with dignity? There are no such guidelines which define the term life. Nobody supports death. However, if someone is suffering from an unbearable pain or incurable state, then there should also be right to die. That suffering should be from a reasonably long period.
Linking of Euthanasia with Abetment to Suicide
Euthanasia is often linked up with 306 of IPC which defines Abetment to Suicide. However, euthanasia does not promote the idea of abetment to suicide. If any person is suffering from an incurable disease, such person should be relieved from such suffering and pain.
This matter came up before the Supreme Court of India in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug Case V. Union of India (2011) 4 SCC 454. In this particular case, Aruna Shanbaug was working as a junior nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. She was raped by a ward boy, named Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. One night, he attacked her in the basement of the same hospital while she was changing clothes then he strangled her neck with a dog chain, he sodomized her and left her in a strangling position. Next morning, when a sweeper went to clean the basement then she found her bleeding and unconscious. Due to strangling, oxygen supply did not reach her brain which ultimately damaged her brain to such an extent that she was no more in a state where she can feel anything. She became blind, deaf, paralysed and remained in a vegetative state for 37 years. After 37 years, in 2011, a famous journalist Pinki Virani filed the petition to the Supreme Court for her Euthanasia. While rejecting the petition, the Apex court laid down the guidelines for Passive Euthanasia. Later on, she died out of Pneumonia in 2015. However, In Common Cause V. Union of India & Another 9th March 2018, the Supreme Court only allowed Passive Euthanasia by means of withdrawal of life support system in March 2018.
The person who seeks euthanasia can file a writ of mandamus under article 226 in the High Court of the state having jurisdiction. The writ can also be filed under article 32 in Supreme Court.
Meaning of Mandamus – an order from a court directing the inferior government official to properly discharge their duties or correct an abuse of discretion.
Death is as important as Life. If living a life is important then quitting too. Death is not a negative or discouraging. If a person is suffering from an unbearable pain and incurable disease from a reasonable period of time. Now, what is a reasonable period of time?
A reasonable period of time will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. There is no straight jacket formula to decide a reasonable time period.
Though the bill is pending, laws will be enacted for Passive Euthanasia. However, an Active Euthanasia should also get legalize.