By Priyanka Arora:
The Supreme Court of India has recently opened the debate regarding giving Euthanasia a legal sanction. But in India, where people are ardent optimists, and believers in miracles, accepting euthanasia would be difficult.
People advocating the right to life would criticize it to the nail, trying to justify that taking away one’s life is like overreaching one’s power, similar to sinning against God, whose beautiful gift is life. But when this beautiful gift turns to be a burden, a prolonged misery, isn’t it necessary to put an end to it rather than to continue the intense pain and suffering? Euthanasia should not be confused with suicide. Euthanasia is strictly related to ending one’s physical suffering. Euthanasia, in the simplest terms, is mercy killing for those patients for whom there is no end to their pain; it’s a blessing for those who wish for a dignified death rather than prolonged suffering. Euthanasia in Greek means “good death”. It is defined as the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.
Proxy euthanasia has been a ubiquitous practice since ages. In such cases, there is usually no scope of recovery, and the patient has nothing to do but to count his last breaths. Many a times people can’t afford to continue the treatment of terminally ill patients and dump them in the hospital, or request the doctor to take away the life support system. Isn’t it better to legalize this practice rather than to continue it behind closed doors?
Euthanasia is not a new concept with respect to Indian culture. This practice was prevalent in ancient times, and references could be found in Mahabharat, wherein Bhishma has the blessing of “iccha mrityu”. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev opines, “Death is not a sudden happening, but an inevitable end. In this culture, we always planned- prepared for a conscious exit. Four stages of life included this. Vanaprastha meant that when one feels they are done with the purpose of life, they walked away into the forest to let go of the body. One has the right to determine the course of life; one has the right to determine one’s exit. The concept of Nirvana and Samadhi, too, forms a part of it.”
Stephen Hawking has described illegalizing Euthanasia as “Discrimination against the disabled, to deny them the right to kill themselves that able bodied people have”. Euthanasia empowers people to put an end to their prolonged misery. The intense suffering that one undergoes in dying, pin by pin, could be ended in a dignified way through euthanasia, where the patient has the option to choose his own death. Dr. Philip Nitscake, who has conducted several euthanasia deaths, narrates the story of one of his southern Australian patient who, before dying, had a hearty meal and shared some intimate moments with his wife. Euthanasia gives one the power to liberate oneself with dignity.
Legalizing Euthanasia is a difficult terrain to walk in, and to prevent its abuse, strictest measures need to be taken. Legalizing euthanasia would come as blessing for people like Aruna Shanbaug, a rape survivor who has been in persistent vegetative state for the past 37 years – or should we turn a blind eye to the problem of terminally ill patients and force them into the dungeon? We can seek examples from nations like Switzerland, Albania and Belgium, where Euthanasia is already legalized.