RIGHT TO DIE

“There is a certain right by which we may deprive a man of life, but none by which we may
deprive him of death; that is mere cruelty” -Anonymous
Every person is entitled with the right to live with dignity. This is a fundamental right
embedded in our Constitution itself. Everyone wants to live as many years as they can and meet death at a ripe old age. But sometimes the pain and suffering of a person is so prolonged that death seem an easier option to the patient and to the observer as well. The person seems to be living a facade of life.

Here arises a new concept of right to die or passive EUTHANASIA. Under this the person is granted the right to die to end his/her plight. If a person has been in a vegetative state for 40-50 years, it seems better to end his/her pain and transverse the respective person to the afterlife.

The government has always been in denial of this right until last year. The Supreme Court granted this right in the “Aruna Shanbaug” case.
In 1973, while working as a junior nurse at a hospital in Mumbai, Aruna Shanbaug was sexually assaulted by a ward boy and remained in a vegetative state following the assault. On 24 January 2011, after she had been in this state for 37 years, the Supreme Court of India responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by journalist Pinki Virani. In its landmark judgement, The honourable SC allowed passive euthanasia in India. The judgement gave a robust interpretation of ‘Right to life’ including ‘Right to Die’ thereby bringing it within manifold of article 21 of constitution of India.

Under passive euthanasia or ‘mercy killing’ the life support system is withdrawn from the patient leading to peaceful death. It is carried out only after the consent of the patient or from the doctor/relatives if the former is not able to express his/her wishes. However, it should not be confused with murder as it is carried out only after the consent of the concerned authorities as well as after observing the plight of the patient.

In recent years ‘living will’ has emerged as a solution in cases when the authorities have been reluctant to grant this particular right. A living will is a written statement detailing a person’s desires in advance regarding future medical treatment in circumstances in which they are unable to give informed consent, especially an advanced directive. Unfortunately, only 27% of the population are aware of this and out of that surprisingly only 6% have a living will.

Euthanasia is a dilemma due to the presence of more than one course of conduct on various grounds. Some people describe it as cruel, irrational and harrowing for the person and the family. They say Euthanasia is not a valid treatment option but represents failure on the part of doctor involved in the person’s care. However, the other party says that right to life doesn’t simple exist as a right but also involves ‘right to live with dignity’.
If a person is not able to maintain the basic standards of dignity due to reason of prolonged illness/ vegetative condition, he/she should be put out of his/her misery.
In a nut shell it is still a subjective matter. Death is resented because it brings an end to the life of someone, we care about but what we must never forget that it also brings an end to the pain and suffering. As people have a right to life, they should also have the right to death.

Euthanasia is seen as a way to let people have a good death, at the time of their own choosing and will make them happier than the pain of their illness. But there is no way we can measure happiness objectively. The right to life gives a person the right not to be killed if they don’t want to be. Hence, I leave this as an open-ended piece and urge the readers to contemplate about what could be the right course of action.