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  • Urvi Mishra

FREEDOM OF CHOICE: NAVIGATING THE ENTANGLEMENT OF EUTHANASIA LEGISLATION

Written by: Urvi Mishra, BA.LLB-4th year, SPPU( Savitribai phule Pune university)


“In the subtle balance between life and death, one question persists: should human beings have the right to choose the timing and manner of their death?”

In the corridors of courts and legislative chambers, the debatable issue of euthanasia unfurls as a battleground where the fundamentals of legality and morality clash. The word “euthanasia” is derived from the Greek words “EU” which means (good) and “Thanatos” which means (death) also known as assisted suicide. There are various ways of performing euthanasia majorly classifying it into active and passive euthanasia and voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is said to be performed with the consent of the patient and vice-versa happens in the performance of involuntary euthanasia. Active euthanasia talks about when the act is done to deliberately cause death e.g. injecting a patient with a lethal dose of a drug and as a consequence taking his/her life away. Active euthanasia is still a crime in India according to Sections 306 and 309 of IPC which talk about ‘abetment of suicide’ and ‘attempt to suicide’ respectively. In the famous case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648 SC held section 309 not violative of Articles 14 and 21 as the right to life does not include the right to die but later, On March 9th, 2018, the SC held that right to die with dignity is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India in the case of Common Cause v. Union of India, (2018) 5 SCC 1.

This judgment of the Supreme Court allowed passive euthanasia which meant reducing the sufferings of ill patients who have difficulty in communicating their last wish. Supreme Court used the term ‘intolerable sufferings’ and here intolerable is a relative and major term to focus on whereas on the other side countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Columbia legalized euthanasia. In 2002 Netherlands became the first country to legalise both active euthanasia and assisted suicide for people who choose to end their lives and are suffering from a disease that had no scope for improvement. Parallelly, horrific incidents were going on in the country like Belgium where it was allowed to perform the concept of assisted suicide, a criterion that included people with mental illness where the recent case talks about a victim of sexual abuse in her early 20s who was allowed by the doctors to choose euthanasia due to incurable PTSD. (post-traumatic stress disorder) this was so unjust discrimination because if we have legalized the concept of assisted suicide, it’s the duty to have legislation on its safeguards too after all we can’t let anybody kill themselves so one must try to create eligible criteria for those who are eligible people under this concept. This is really disturbing and awful to classify the people as less worthy of their life.

Countries which follow the principle of liberalism, democracy and equality posed a serious question mark on themselves and their power of making legislation on the concept of euthanasia as they cannot decide who has the right to live and right to die. In the well-known case of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, (2011) 4 SCC 454 Supreme Court upheld that passive euthanasia can be allowed in exceptional and rarest of the rare cases where the patient continues to be in a prolonged ‘vegetative state’ with due approval from the doctors and the family members declaring that patient cannot live a normal life and he/she cannot decide their ‘living will’.

Supporters of this concept give their view that if the patient is going through intolerable suffering and there is no scope for improvement in their health then the financial burden lies upon the family and there is no effective solution in return. Hence this burden could be reduced by the means of passive euthanasia. On the other hand, critics argue that no matter what the reasons are, in a way, it is still murder, and in terms of religious or moral perspective, depriving a person of his right to live is a sanctity of human life that life should be preserved and safeguarded irrespective of its quality or circumstances. Some argue in terms of medical ethics that euthanasia contradicts with ethical principle of medicine by causing harm or ending life prematurely. It raises concern about the potential for abuse of this concept including coercion, force on vulnerable individuals, and their end of human life. Therefore, legalizing euthanasia should emphasize necessary safeguards as well in terms of who is eligible for this treatment. If a person wants medical assistance to kill himself, he should first ask or take permission or appeal to the authority that’s set above on you.

In conclusion, the discourse surrounding euthanasia is undeniably full of complexities. While proponents argue for the fundamental right to die with dignity, opponents’ express concerns about ethical implications and misuse or sanctity of human life. In navigating these conflicting scenarios, it is essential to prioritize the necessary legal frameworks that fortify the rights and integrity of the individuals focusing more on those who are vulnerable state, keeping in mind the ‘right to life’ embodied in Article 21 of the constitution which a natural right but assisted suicide is an unnatural termination of life making it inconsistent with the concept of the right to life but still if there is a demand in situations where the patient is incapable to be in a better condition then stringent measures should be taken to allow the execution of passive euthanasia.

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