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RIGHT TO DIE: A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OR NOT?

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

Author: Vasu Jain, II Year of BBA.,LL.B(Hons.) From Geeta Institute of Law, Panipat.


(Enlightenment of the concept of Euthanasia)


Introduction

Our Indian constitution provides us with various rights and duties. Fundamental rights are considered to be essential for a person’s survival. They are the basic rights that are given to every citizen in a civilized country. In Indian Constitution, fundamental rights are guaranteed under part III of the Indian constitution. They are covered in Article 12-35 of the constitution.

Article 21 of the constitution provides that, “No person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” Right to life guaranteed under section 21 does not mean only physical existence but also the quality of life. It means right to live with human dignity, right to basic necessities of life such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter over the head.


Brief Study

Now the question arises that if our constitution guarantees us the right to life in such a broad manner than, Is Right to Die is also our fundamental right or not? The argument here is that if our life is in our hands completely than we should also have a right to end our lives. If we have complete freedom to exercise everything that matters to our quality of life than we should also be free to bring our life to pause if it’s not going right. Right to Die can be taken in two senses, one is positive sense and other one is negative sense.

Obviously we have Right to Die with Dignity but it should not be mixed up with or taken as Right to Die. If a person is living a painful life full of sufferings then he prefers to end it up but getting an unnatural death by a person himself with the help of any other person is not right and also punishable under the law. These kinds of matters goes under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. But on the other hand if we discuss a case where a person is suffering from a critical disease and is lying on bed completely. There are no chances of future recovery and in present he is suffering a lot due to that ongoing disease. Then what should one do in this case? Sometimes in these cases doctors decide to give euthanasia to the patient.


Euthanasia: All we need to know.

When a person voluntarily decides to end up his life tired from the sufferings of life that make it even worse than death is called euthanasia. It is also described as Mercy Killing. There are many arguments in favour and in against of it. Many countries have legalized it (e.g. Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, Spain etc.) and in many countries it is still illegal (e.g. Switzerland, Britain, many states of US, etc.). In India Passive euthanasia is legal while active euthanasia is illegal.

Active Euthanasia means when someone especially medical staff or caretakers do something particular that causes the death of the patient suffering. This is basically a deliberate action. It may include giving any kind of injection or medicine. Whereas Passive Euthanasia means when a person stops doing something that is necessary to save a person’s life. Sometimes it may include omission of that act which is keeping a patient alive. It may include, switching off the life supporting machines, stop giving life supporting medicines etc.


Arguments in Favour of legalizing Euthanasia

  • It is a appropriate way to end the life of a person who is suffering from a critical disease in which the condition is miserable than death.

  • It is somehow included in the right to life because right to life also include everything that matters our quality of life and any disease that makes our life miserable obviously matters our quality of life.

  • A one time crying is far better than crying for life. So family members at least get a satisfaction that person is no more now.

Arguments against legalizing Euthanasia.

  • In a country like India, people will start misusing it.

  • Poor people will start using it as a method to end up their difficult lives.

  • Moral or religious sentiments of the people will get hurt at large.


Right to Die: Legal Validity

When a person tries to end his life out of frustrations of the sufferings and problems of his life then it is called suicide. It is clearly stated in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code that any person who will attempt to suicide will be imprisoned for a period of one year or fine or both. So, it’s clear that suicide is not included under right to die.


In Smt. Gian Kaur vs The State of Punjab, court held that right to life does not include right to die because suicide is unnatural. Further court approved Passive Euthanasia because it is included in right to die with dignity which is a part of right to live with dignity.


In, Common Cause (A Registered Society) vs Union of India, The Hon’ble Supreme Court gave recognition to Passive Euthanasia and Living Will. Now Right to Die with Dignity is a Fundamental Right.

According to concept of Living Will, a person can choose not to remain in a vegetative state where he needs life supporting machines for survival. He can make his will in advance because in that stage he may not be able to express his wish.


Conclusion

In this article we have basically discussed the concept of Right to Die in context of the Right to Life as a fundamental right. According to the landmark judgement passed in 2018 (Common Cause (A Registered Society) vs Union of India), now Right to Die with Dignity is a fundamental right of every citizen of India. This right includes the concept of Passive Euthanasia which means ending life of a person in vegetative state in an indirect way. This had given birth to the concept of living will.