The Saltlist

Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.

The Great Euthanasia Debate



By Sourya Donkada

In a path breaking judgement In Aruna Shanbaug case, the supreme court has allowed “passive euthanasia” of withdrawing life support of patients in permanently vegetative state”. It’s called a path breaking judgement, when after years of trial they decide to finally allow a tortured woman in a vegetable state for the past 37 years to rest.

They say killing is wrong, they say life’s sanctity cannot be breached: So they’d rather have a human gasp for every breath, suffer every second of his “life” until death takes it’s own sweet time to strike. Well, “They” are just stupid. The whole premise of euthanasia opponents revolves around the “Sanctity of life” and how someone should be forced to suffer in pain despite their protests. The argument is clear and straight – Does this utopian concept of “Sanctity of life” hold stand against the pleas of terminally ill patient in pain to have a death with dignity?

One of the main concerns from side opposition is the decision being taken by the third party in cases of victim being in a vegetable state. This is where we land on a slippery slope if we believe in this argument. This argument is based on the assumption that there is no legal mechanism in place and hence euthanasia can be used by anyone at any point of time. Any case of euthanasia is/can be subject to legal processes especially in cases where the victim isn’t in a position to take a decision and grant is given only when there are no chances of recovery There are cases of families making the elderly die at home by starving them, cases of local herb heeler administered euthanasia in rural areas, by bringing the process under the purview of the legal system in place, we’d be controlling malpractices rather than aiding them. Misuse is an administrative problem which can be curbed and controlled.

Looking at the current scenario where passive euthanasia is leagal as it maintains “sanctity of life” while we take the hypocritical stand of being morally and principally right. The question remains how is active euthanasia a crime? According to the all knowing “them”, letting a person suffer very second of his life till death is justified while giving them a dignified painless way out to the approaching inevitable death is a crime that soils our principles? What skewed notion of justice is this? We disregard the “human” in “humanity” and preach morals?

It is a voluntary choice of the patient in concern or aided choice in case of permanent vegetative state – a choice judged by the legal machinery in place along with medical expertise. A person’s right to speech encompasses his right to silence, similarly a person’s right to live should encompass his right to death at least in cases of need. It’s a humane decision vs normative arguments. Aruna Shanbaug had to wait 37 years to find relief. There are thousands suffering worse. Show some mercy.


By Sarah Zia

When the Supreme Court of India in a landmark judgment pertaining to the Aruna Shanbaug case granted legal status to passive euthanasia as against active euthanasia, it once again became a hot topic for debate. While proponents of euthanasia choose to define it as “ending life in order to decrease or eliminate suffering”, the opponents believe it is equivalent to inducing death. I stand firmly opposed to the idea and I shall tell you why.

To quote the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics, the precise definition of euthanasia is “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.” It is based on the premise that when the person reaches a ‘permanent vegetative state’ or is alive only on life support and is alive with extreme suffering and pain, the only way to end this pain would be death. It also stems from the idea that just as human have the right to life, they have as much a right to die. Thus there are two forms of euthanasia: active and passive. Active euthanasia refers to using means like injecting lethal injections to induce death whereas passive euthanasia would include withdrawal of life support to the patient. So, while many countries have legalized passive euthanasia and thus recognized it as a way of ending suffering, many more countries consider active euthanasia as a form of inducing death and, therefore, illegal. The argument here is that passive euthanasia is not exactly killing; it is just putting an end to pain. What gets lost in an argument like this is that irrespective of the means used, the end result is loss of life.

To counter the argument about the right to death which seems to stem from the right to life, I would like to say that the right to life is an inalienable right that an individual is allowed to exercise and other bodies like the State are expected to uphold it. But in case of the right to death being upheld by euthanasia, one needs to take note that this right might be exercised by a third party (and not the individual himself) and more often than not without the choice of the person. For instance, if someone has to go through ‘mercy killing’ it is often the relatives or other guardians who take this decision on behalf of the individual. Thus while upholding this right to death, the individual’s right to choice gets violated in more ways than one. Furthering this argument, the reason why many countries also consider suicide a criminal offence is because of the belief that the right to take away someone’s life-in this case one’s own- does not rest with an individual.

Finally, so while euthanasia may be a means to bring an end to an individual’s suffering, one needs to understand that the issue has a lot of complex, practical dimensions to it. It involves grave issues pertaining to an individual’s life, death and other such rights. The question that essentially remains is: is it fair to kill someone only because they are no longer able to live?


2 comments on “The Great Euthanasia Debate

  1. rabbi for Bris NY
    January 4, 2012

    Oh hey I just wanted to take a moment to say i love reading your Site!

  2. risingbharat
    February 5, 2012

    Well in cases of third party being the decision maker, the government should appoint an agency to approve euthanasia. , which should evaluate the options and then provide the approval. Yes deciding on that is tricky but if you discount the emotional aspect it saves the patient (suffering), the family (grieving and provides a closure) and hospital (resources )

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2011 by in Democracy, Governance and Human Interest.

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