EUTHANASIA AND THE RIGHT TO DIE
Author- Rashi Garg, I year of B.A. L.L.B. from Symbiosis Law School, Noida.
Euthanasia, often known as mercy killing, is the procedure or practise of putting to death, painlessly, those suffering from terminal diseases or incapacitating bodily disorders, or allowing them to die by putting off treatments or removing artificial life-support systems.
Euthanasia is divided into two categories: active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is the purposeful termination of a person's life in order to alleviate suffering. It is an intentional act, generally including the administration of fatal medications, that terminates the life of an incurably or terminally sick patient.Passive euthanasia is the purposeful discontinuation of medical care with the goal of accelerating the death of a terminally sick patient.
The right to die emphasises a person's dignity and autonomy when making decisions regarding their death, which includes the freedom to decline medical care or seek help in death whenever dealing with excruciating pain or incurable illnesses.
EUTHANASIA: UNDERSTANDING THE RIGHT TO DIE
Euthanasia raises significant questions about individual freedom, the dignity of human life, and the moral implications of end-of-life decisions. It acknowledges a person's right to make decisions regarding their own life and death. It gives people authority over their bodies and helps them to reduce their own pain, especially in situations of terminal illnesses. That is, it offers a way to relieve physical and mental agony for people suffering from incurable or fatal illnesses. It provides a compassionate solution to individuals who are suffering unbearably and allows them to die with dignity, accompanied by loved ones.
It also raises fundamental ethical issues about the balance between protecting life and alleviating misery. It compels society to reconsider the beliefs and values that guide care at the end of life, as well as the moral consequences of prolonging pain compared to respecting an individual's liberty to select to die peacefully. Improvements in medicine have extended people's lives, but they have additionally caused concerns about the quality of life in circumstances when options for treatment are restricted. People who are unwilling to undertake intensive medical procedures with a small chance of changing their health could choose euthanasia.
Furthermore, it calls into question the legal frameworks throughout the world, generating debates regarding the duty of medical professionals, patient rights, and the boundaries of governmental engagement in personal decisions.
The legislation of euthanasia necessitates a thorough examination of society’s values, human rights, and the possible impact on vulnerable groups. While euthanasia remains a contentious topic, its significance resides in fostering dialogues about individual freedom, dignity for humans, empathy, and the rights of persons confronting such dilemmas. It emphasises the need for society to balance ideals and ethical viewpoints in confronting the complicated reality of terminal illness and suffering.
The Netherlands was the very first country to legalise euthanasia in April 2002, followed by Belgium in May 2002. In 2009, the South Korean Supreme Court recognised the right to die with dignity when it granted the family of a brain-dead woman's request to withdraw her from life-support equipment.
HISTORICAL AND RELIGIOUS VIEWS ON EUTHANASIA
In regard to euthanasia, Hinduism offers two opposing perspectives. On the one hand, ending a painful existence is viewed as a beneficial activity that fulfils moral obligations. Disrupting the time of the cyclical process of death and rebirth, on the opposite hand, is seen negatively. The same contention applies to the application of life-support devices, implying that prolonging life artificially in such instances would be equally bad.
Hinduism allows the practice of Prayopavesa, a nonviolent kind of death fasting. This is regarded as a natural way of terminating life when a person has served their role in this life and has grown to be a burden to others.
In some circumstances, both Jainism and Buddhism recognise euthanasia as a humane option."Sallekhana," or voluntary fasting till death is a belief in Jainism. According to Buddhist texts, Lord Buddha permitted self-built death for the very ill individual as a gesture of mercy.
Euthanasia has always been condemned by Christians as an infringement of the sacredness of life. Christians consider that life is a gift from God, and it is believed that only God possesses the ability to decide when and how to die. Euthanasia is usually condemned in Islam as intervening with the natural procedure for life and death as established by Allah. Muslims uphold the sacredness of life and the value of protecting it.
LANDMARK CASE LAWS ON EUTHANASIA IN INDIA
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of P. Rathinam v. Union of India, 1994 AIR 1844, that Article 21, which provides the right to life, also incorporates the right to die. As a result, Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was declared invalid.
Furthermore, in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab 1996 AIR 946, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in P. Rathinam and upheld Sections 306 and 309 as constitutional.
In the case of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India 2011 (4) SCC 454, passive euthanasia was legalised in India. The Supreme Court noted the importance of the idea of euthanasia and the right to life is construed to mean the right to a life of dignity and value.
The case set conditions for passive euthanasia. Thus, it was ruled that the Supreme Court (and the High Courts) could legalise passive euthanasia in each individual case based on the well-informed decision of the medical board of professionals.
The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Common Cause v Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1, that as per Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, every person possesses the right to die with dignity in recognition of his or her right to life and personal liberty. Thus, in 2018, passive euthanasia was legalised in India, declaring that it was a question of 'living will'. Under some situations, an adult may refuse medical care or deliberately opt not to receive medical attention to accept death in a natural way. That is, the court recognised the necessity for people to form a will to live while simultaneously allowing them to refuse the assistance of an artificial life support system. It expressly stated that under Article 21, dignity during the process of dying is equally an element of the right to life as the right to life itself. Depriving a person of dignity at the end of life deprives the person of an important life.
CONCERNS OVER LEGALISING EUTHANASIA
Legalising euthanasia raises worries about the possibility of misuse and coercion, especially among individuals who are vulnerable such as the elderly, the crippled, or those suffering from mental illness. There is a possibility that some people might be pushed to choose euthanasia because of societal, economic, or emotional circumstances, rather than because they consider it a choice option.
Legalising euthanasia risks undermining the basic dignity and sanctity of human life. Before condoning the choice of wilfully terminating life, society should prioritise proper palliative treatment and emotional support for persons experiencing terminal illnesses.
Euthanasia raises ethical concerns for healthcare practitioners since it contradicts the conventional purpose of physicians, which is to cure and save lives. Doctors can experience ethical dilemmas when balancing their need to ease the pain with their duty to avoid willfully inflicting death.Legalising euthanasia may have psychological ramifications for medical professionals who participate. It may cause moral pain because they may have to end the lives of their patients.
Active euthanasia and the right to die continue to be contentious and emotionally sensitive issues across the world. While several nations have developed laws that allow active euthanasia under rigorous limitations, India continues to confront the issue by not legalising active euthanasia; nonetheless, India has legalised passive euthanasia.
The ethical, moral, and legal components of euthanasia necessitate constant conversation, study, and understanding to assure the development of sensitive and suitable legislation. Finally, striking a balance that protects individual liberty, prevents abuse, and protects the sanctity of life is critical in formulating laws on euthanasia.