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Author: Damini Pathania , L.L.M Student , from Chandigarh University .


A person is not allowed to take their own life. If a person commits such an act, it is termed "suicide." When a person requests others to take his life, such an act is known as "euthanasia" or "Mercy Killing". Every person wants to live for years and years. We are all scared to die, but at times, situations are such that a person chooses to end their life and get rid of suffering. This concept is mostly applied in situations where a person is ill or becomes severely handicapped and doesn't want to live the rest of their life in such a way. This concept has been debated worldwide. It is a controversial topic based on the morals, values, and beliefs of our society. Countries like the Netherlands and England have allowed euthanasia in their countries. This article will introduce you to the position of euthanasia in India. 


Euthanasia, also called "mercy killing," is the intentional killing of a person whose worth of living does not exist. In layman's terms, it can be understood as when a person decides to put an end to his life through any other person upon his request to do so. The term is medically as well as legally defined to be "an act of ending the life of a person who suffers from an incurable situation or a disease that is painful".

The main motive of euthanasia is to give a painless death to a person who is going to die in the future due to suffering. Today, it is only limited to the deaths caused by doctors at the request of their patients.


There are basically five types of euthanasia. Let's try to understand each one of them briefly.

Aggressive Euthanasia

This act involves the direct action of the other person in killing a person. Usually, in such cases, lethal doses of a drug are inserted into human beings. It's an easy and quick way to kill a person. It is illegal to use this type of euthanasia.

Negative Euthanasia

In this kind of Euthanasia, the basic artificial life support system that is necessary for the individual is taken away. Like not providing necessary and ordinary care, food and water, etc. It is a slower process and could be said to be more painful than aggressive euthanasia. Such kinds of euthanasia are termed "legal." In this case, doctors do not take any active steps but become passive in their approach, thereby causing the death of the individual.


When a person himself wishes or gives consent to euthanasia, in such cases, a person voluntarily chooses to end his life for the best interests of everyone else. 


In this case, the consent of the dying person is not taken. Nor does the person desire to be dead. But such a person is given euthanasia. Such a case would amount to murder.


It refers to a case where the person is not competent to take any decision because of a mental illness or lack of mental stability. If there is no hope of the recovery of the person in the future and it is assumed that it would be better to die than to live such a kind of life, then euthanasia is given. Such a thing is only given after the consent of the family members.


The 196th Law Commission Report

Earlier, doctors were punishable u/s 304 of the IPC, 1860 for committing euthanasia, even if it was a voluntary one. The 196th Law Commission Report of 2006 recommended strictly legalizing passive euthanasia. Protection from such euthanasia could only be given if the patient had no chance of recovery, whereas the other such act would remain illegal.

Furthermore, it is the doctor's responsibility to such a patient to inform him about his current condition and future possibilities, as well as to keep the patient alive against his will. However, S.306 of IPC, 1860 provides protection to doctors against causing the willful death of a patient upon instructions and consent of the patient.


Today, in India, only passive euthanasia holds a legal status, whereas active euthanasia is still illegal. There were several judicial decisions taken to discuss this controversial concept. 

Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, 1996

The contention was made that the right to life under A.21 of the Indian Constitution includes the right to die. The Supreme Court rejected this contention and held that the right to life under A.21 does not include the right to die and cannot be meant to be so under any circumstances. Thus, the court does not hold the illegal position of euthanasia to be invalid constitutionally. 

Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. UOI

In this case, passive euthanasia was declared legal. The Supreme Court held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right of a person. As per the court, passive euthanasia is when a doctor does not save him. In this case, the court said that the doctors are not punishable for such an act of not saving a patient. The court also permitted the living will of the patient.

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. UOI, 2011

In this case, it was held by the SC that where a person is incompetent to take the decision on the continuation question of his life, it is within the court's discretion to take a decision on his behalf, considering the views of his relatives, friends, and doctor. In this case, passive euthanasia was legalized to some extent in certain circumstances based on certain guidelines. 

  1. The decision to end one's life should be made first by the parents, relatives, or spouse; if they are not present, the decision should be made by friends, and finally by the doctor.

  2. Such a decision must be made with good faith and in the best interests of the patient.

  3. In cases where the decision is taken by relatives, friends, or a doctor, it shall be approved by the High Court. 


According to opinion, for medical practitioners, the cessation of the life support system should be done when the spontaneous respiratory and circulatory functions or brainstems do not respond. Euthanasia shall be provided to a person who voluntarily requests it in the event of unbearable pain. In such cases, physicians should take due care of the matter. Such testing should be done only when the doctor has no other solution to the problem. Medical practitioners should be given the right to give high doses of pain relief medications even if they cause the patient's death. In such cases, the coroner must look at the body and check the case. If it doesn't match the facts of the case, then a penal proceeding may be initiated.


There is no such law that cannot be exploited or that does not have loopholes in it. People even try to manipulate the law with strict interpretations. I believe that voluntary euthanasia should be allowed in India. It would be crueler to leave a person suffering from pain not only physically but also mentally. The dead should not be seen only as an aspect of the greatest suffering and pain, but rather as a way to come out of all suffering. Therefore, I think that the legislature should pass laws in order to govern euthanasia. 


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