euthanasia in india

The Development of Euthanasia in India

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Everyone dies one day and it’s the ultimate truth of life. Every person on this earth are scared of the loss of life but in some specific situations, some person wants to end the life. The end of the life of a person may arise out of two kinds by suicide or euthanasia. Euthanasia has long been a dubious and emotive issue. Article 21 of the Constitution of India assurances the citizens to lives a life with dignity but when life becomes intolerable as to cut one of the essential bodily functions, some people choose to end their life.

What is Euthanasia? 

The term Euthanasia is originated from the Greek words ‘EU’ which indicate good and ‘thanotos’ which imply death, therefore the term Euthanasia indicates good death. The word is recognized as ‘mercy killing’ and is lawfully and medically distinguished as an act of terminating or ceasing the life of a person who undergoes a deadly disease or painful circumstance.[1] Simply, euthanasia means willful killing by an act or omission of the individual whose life is felt is not to be worth living.

Types of Euthanasia:-

Euthanasia is four types, they are stated below –

Passive Euthanasia: This type of euthanasia arises when medical practitioners do not give life-sustaining treatment or reduce patients from life-sustaining treatment. This could encompass severing life support machines or feeding tubes or not carrying out life-saving operations or giving life-extending medications. In such cases, the negligence by the medical practitioner is not treated as the reason for death rather than the patient is inferred to have died because of his underlying circumstance.

Active Euthanasia: This type of euthanasia arises when death is caused by the administration of a deadly injection or medications. It also contains physician-assisted suicide where the injection or medications are provided by the physician, but the act of administration is attempted by the patient himself.

Non-voluntary Euthanasia: This type of euthanasia arises when a person’s life is expired, who is mentally incapable to make any such decisions of his life or a request to die such as a patient suffering from comatose. In those cases, the patient does not leave any living will or deliver any increase directives, generally, because he either might not have had the chance or he might not have perceived any such eventuality. In non-voluntary euthanasia, cases the decision is always made by the family members of the patient.

Voluntary euthanasia: This type of euthanasia arises when the expressed approval and desire of the patient is present. It is mainly concerned with the right to choice of the patient, undergoing a deadly disease who agrees to end his life.

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 categorizes the act of attempted suicide as a crime. It is punishable by law with detention for a term of up to 1 year or a fine or both.

There is some kind of co-relation between suicide and euthanasia in the significance that both are kinds of the voluntary ending of one’s life. While the attempt to commit suicide has been treated as a crime, euthanasia is treated with a little more attention by legislators.

Article 21 of the Constitution of India states safety of life and Personal Liberty. The right to die is contained in Article 21. It came into deliberation for the first time before the Bombay High Court when the court held that the Right to life under Article 21 contains a right to die. 

People may desire to end their life which may contain:

Horrible or intolerable situations of life;

A sense of disgrace and disenchantment with life; and 

Incurable disease. 

The court stated that everyone should have the freedom to dispose of his life as and when he wishes under the above-mentioned circumstances.[2] 

Arguments on Euthanasia:-

In favor –

People have a right to self-determination and therefore a person should be entitled to decide their destiny. Promoting a subject to die might be better than compelling to remain to suffer.

Allowing euthanasia will not needs lead to undesirable impacts. Pro-euthanasia activists always point to nations like the Netherlands and Belgium and state like Oregon, where euthanasia has been legalized to contend that it is mainly unproblematic.

The right to withhold medical treatment is well recognized in statute comprising medical treatment that maintains or prolongs life. The glory of the right to withhold treatment provides a path for passive euthanasia.

People who have deadly, degenerative, the disabling situation should be entitled to die in dignity. This argument is further defended for those, who have incurable illness even though it is not deadly such as serious mental disease. The majority of such pleas are filed in court by the patients or family members. 

Euthanasia in terminally ill sufferers entitles advocating for organ contribution. This will beneficial to many patients with organ failure waiting for transplantation. Not only euthanasia gives the right to die for the terminally ill but also the right to life for the organ needy sufferers.

Against-

Many people argue that options such as termination of active treatment, incorporated with the use of effective pain relief, are available to deal with incurable diseases and not all deaths are unbearable. 

Euthanasia might not be in an individual’s reasonable interests.

Authorizing euthanasia will direct to less adequate care for the terminal disease.

Permitting euthanasia impairs the responsibility of doctors and medical practitioners to saving lives.

Euthanasia may become a cost-effective means to deal with terminal diseases.

Authorizing euthanasia will deter the search for new remedies and treatments for the terminal disease.

Judgements on Euthanasia:-

Over the years, the Indian judiciary has witnessed many euthanasia cases. Some of them are stated below –

In the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India [(1994) 3 SCC 394], the Supreme Court of India stated that Section 309 of IPC is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The Court termed the said section as cruel and irrational, arising in penalizing a person again who has already endured misery and would be suffering ignominy due to loss to execute suicide. Moreover, an act of suicide cannot be asserted to be against religion, integrity or public policy, and an act of undertaken suicide has no baneful impact on society and that it does not incite any harm to others because of which States’ interference with the private liberty of the individuals concerned is unnecessary.[3]

In the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab[(1996) 2 SCC 648], the Supreme Court of India held that wherein it was carried that the “right to life” is innately unpredictable with the “right to die” as is “death” with “life”. In furtherance, the right to life which encompasses the right to live with dignity would imply the presence of such a right up to the natural end of life. It may further include “death with dignity” but such existence should not be amazed at the unusual extinction of life reducing the natural duration of life. In expansion to the above, the constitutionality of Section 309 of IPC, which makes “attempt to suicide” an offence, was upheld, revoking the judgment in the Rathinam case.[4]

Conclusion:-

In today’s world, euthanasia refers to the willful killing of a person whose life is not worth living anymore. The rules and judgments have been clearly mentioned that euthanasia applies only to patients. Most democratic nations honor the liberty to live with dignity to make some provision for passive euthanasia.

By Shreeparna Goswami, 3rd year of Shyambazar Law College.


[1] Euthanasia – Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia.

[2] Euthanasia: Legal Framework in India, https://www.legalbites.in/euthanasia-legal-framework-in-india/#:~:text=The%20need%20to%20amend%20the,a%20position%20to%20do%20so.

[3] P.Rathinam vs Union Of India on 26 April, 1994, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/542988/.

[4] Euthanasia — Indian View  | SCC Blog, https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2020/11/28/euthanasia-indian-view/.

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