Should Euthanasia Be Legalized?

Posted on February 2, 2010 in Specials

Arpita Dutta:

‘Euthanasia’, a word whose reference boggles a million minds, has been creeping through several religious, spiritual, legal and ethical sentiments from time immemorial. Derived from the Greek dictionary, ‘Eu thanos’ refers to ‘good death’.

Euthanasia is a process by which those suffering terminal & unendurable illness choose to end their life, by decree. Though the word ‘decree’ refers to a legal decision, its synonym ‘will’ would have prompted ‘Euthanasia’ to be categorized as ‘ suicide’. But how legal ‘Euthanasia’ is, in India, is yet to be discovered.

‘Euthanasia’ has been one of the most debated topics which outrage the moral dignity of life. According to Natural Law, Euthanasia desecrates the sanctity of life. Pragmatically, the ascendancy of Euthanasia can be justified; but in a startling twist, the effective practice of Euthanasia is still under the scanner. The abusage of the much controversial Euthanasia has many instances in history. The most derogatory of all is the comment made by the celebrated British novelist Martin Amis, on establishing Euthanasia booths through street corners of Britain for pensioners to end their lives with a “martini and a medal”.

In India itself, Euthanasia has endured several trials and tribulations. The glaring loopholes in our constitution have procreated Euthanasia as a subject of dissension. Section 300, Exception 5 of Indian Penal Code illustrates “Culpable Homicide is not murder when the death is caused, being above the age of 18 years, suffers death or takes the risk of death with his/her own consent”. In juxtaposition, Section 306, Abetment of Suicide articulates “If any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 10 years and shall be liable to fine”. Ironically, both section 306 and section 305, exception 5 hail from the same genre. But the asperity of criminalization is appreciated through the contrariness in the literature of the statements.

While culpable homicide has been exuded as ethical under the ornate-ness of law, abetment of suicide has been criminalized. If grossly pondered, both the aforesaid legal quantifiers, slap Article 21 of our constitution ( Right to Live with Dignity) & Section 309 of IPC which states ” Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for term which may extend up to 1 year”. Hence legalization of Euthanasia in a democracy like India lies outside the commonly held life- centered values and cannot be allowed without incurring great legal tragedies.

Analogous to this fact, legitimacy of Euthanasia in India would lead to virtually unfettered abuse of vulnerable patients, escalation in ‘slow euthanasia” practiced by doctors on terminally-ill patients and a breach of the Hippocratic Oath solemnly vowed by the doctors.

Consequently, rather than banging heads over legal carnages, a remarkable progress can be achieved by prioritizing our resources towards expanding hospices like Shanti Avedna Sadan, Ganga Prem Hospice, Karunashraya and promoting pain management programmes; so that all the afflicted could be endowed with a ‘good death’ spontaneously rather than lethally.

The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz.