This article is written by Mariya Paliwala, Student of VII semester Mohan Lal Sukhadiya University College of law.
Euthanasia is a practice or an act by which a person suffering from painful and incurable disease is put to death in order to end the suffering of that person. This can be done in the following ways:
- By incapacitating physical disorder.
- By withdrawing treatment is a passive means to cause death.
- By introducing something is an active means to cause death.
- By withdrawing artificial life-support system.
- When Physician some medicine and patient or third person administer it to cause death. This is called as Physician-assisted death.
Euthanasia is also called ‘Mercy Killing’.
In 1935, when C. Killick Millard found a society called Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation Society, which later on came to be known as Euthanasia society. This society organized a movement to legalize Euthanasia in 1935. However, the Bill failed in the House of Lords in 1936. The morally accuracy of Euthanasia is traceable from the time of Plato, Aristotle and Stoics.
Some countries of the word took forth a step to legalize Euthanasia, which was Netherlands in 2001, Belgium in 2002, and Oregon in 1997.
Classification of Euthanasia
Classification Based on Consent
When the practice of Euthanasia is conducted with the consent of the patient. This act is legal in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Washington in the U.S.A and the states of Oregon.
When the practice of Euthanasia is conducted without the consent of the patient in the case when patient is unable to give consent due to his deteriorating health conditions. In these kinds of circumstances, another appropriate person, on behalf of the patient, gives the consent. The quality of life and suffering needs to be taken into consideration.
Classification Based on Procedure
- Passive Euthanasia
Passive euthanasia is called when life-sustaining treatments are withdrawn. For instance, if a doctor may prescribe high dose of pain killing medicines like opioids, which perhaps may be toxic to the patient, or by removing a life support system.
- Active Euthanasia
Active euthanasia is comparatively more controversial as it seems to derogate moral, ethical, religious and compassionate values. When somebody to end patient’s life uses a lethal substance or force.
Position of India on Euthanasia
India is a country where there are no laws pertaining to Euthanasia. In fact, in India attempt to suicide and abetment to suicide are both punishable under Section 309 and 306 of Indian Penal Code, 1980 respectively.
In the case of P. Rathiram vs. Union of India, 1994 constitutional validity of Section 309 was challenged in the Supreme Court, wherein it held that Section 309 of I.P.C was unconstitutional and was in derogation with Article 21, which pertains to ‘Right to Life and Personal Liberty’.
However, in the case of Gian Kaur vs. State of Punjab, 1996 there was the abetment of commission of Suicide punishable under Section 306 of I.P.C. came before the Supreme Court. The trial court convicted the accused, which upheld by the High Court.
Later on in an appeal to Supreme Court the accused contended that ‘Right to Die’ is included within ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Further, any person abetting the commission of suicide by anyone is a mere helping that person in enforcing his fundamental right under Article 21. Hence, punishing the accused under Section 306 is the violation of fundamental right.
The constitutional bench of the Apex Court in this case held that ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution does not include within itself ‘Right to Die’.
Therefore, after this the Supreme Court reconsidered its earlier decision and affirmed that abetment of suicide and attempt to suicide are two distinct offences punishable under I.P.C.
Arguments against Euthanasia
People who oppose the practice of Euthanasia put forth the following arguments:
- Disposing of diseased person
People suffering from incurable disease will be disposed off from the civilized society.
- Violative of basic rights
Euthanasia is violative of the basic fundamental rights and most importantly the Human Rights. For instance, euthanasia is unnatural termination or extinction of life, which is violative of ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Mental instability leads to incapability of decision
Suicide in most of the cases is a cause of mental illness, which is difficult to analyze.
- Immoral misuse of euthanasia
There is the possibility of misusing Euthanasia by the family members of the patient for the purpose of inheriting the property or for any other greed.
- Commercialization of health care
Commercialization of health care leads to the relatives of a poor patient withdraws the treatment because it involves a huge cost to keep them alive.
Arguments By Euthanasia Supporters
People who favored the practice of Euthanasia put forth the following arguments:
- Eliminates Burden
It eliminates the burden from the shoulders of the caregivers of the patient suffering from incurable, disabling, degenerative or debilitating conditions.
- Denying Medical Treatment
Refusal to take medical treatment is well recognized in law. For instance, a patient suffering from blood cancer can refuse treatment or deny feeds through nasogastric tube.
- Right to die with dignity
Patients in the vegetative state or in chronic illness, who do not want to burden their family, can choose the option of Euthanasia as a way to uphold ‘Right to life’ by embracing ‘Right to die’ with dignity
- Encourages organ transplant
Euthanasia not only gives ‘Right to Die’ to a person suffering from acute pain but also give ‘Right to Life’ to the organ needy patients, which ultimately encourages donation of organs.
Transformation of Hippocratic oath
All the doctors that they will responsibly dealing with the health of their patients generally take Hippocratic oath. However, the words of the oath has changed over the years.
The former is the earlier oath and the later is the modern oath. The former depicts an argument against Euthanasia while the later favors Euthanasia. Further, with the changing time and circumstance, some people feel that the original oath is outdated. In some countries the doctors while in other countries take a transformed and upgraded oath like Pakistan doctors still stick to the original oath. The change in the Hippocratic oath has take place in various nations.
Different nations of the world on Euthanasia
The practice of Euthanasia is illegal in Australia. Although in June 2019 Victoria i.e. one of the Australian state passed a law pertaining to assisted suicide only in certain limited prescribed conditions. Back in 1997, the Northern territories of Australia had laws pertaining to Euthanasia, which was known as Euthanasia Law Act, 1997. The Act was legal only for a short duration in Northern territories of Australia. However, organizations such as Exit International want the Australian government to bring back the legislation pertaining to Euthanasia.
On 24th May 2012 Argentine Senate enacted a legislation wherein Euthanasia was legalized and has enabled to discard the treatments, which enable to artificially prolong the life of the patient with chronic disease. The consent for Euthanasia can be given by the patient himself or his relative in the case where he is unable to express his consent.
On 28th May 2002 Belgian Parliament legalized the practice of Euthanasia. According to the survey report published in 2010 stated that compared to other form of death people died from euthanasia were more of youngsters, male cancer patient and mostly died in their homes. Further, almost in all the cases unbearable physical suffering was noted in the report. About 1,400 cases were recorded in 2010 since the law was introduced and 1.807 cases in 2013.
In Canada ‘Physician Assisted Suicide’ is legal in Canada. Physician Assisted Suicide is a kind of Euthanasia wherein voluntary active euthanasia is given to the patient who is above the age of 18 years and is suffering from such a chronic illness where death is foreseeable. In order to prevent the increase in suicide tourism, euthanasia in Canada is pre conditioned that mercy killing can be done to only those patient who can claim Canadian Health Insurance.
Active euthanasia is not legalized in Chile while passive Euthanasia is legal. The laws of Chile leaves on the patient’s will when he suffering from terminal disease can refuse the treatment.
Like Chile, active euthanasia is not legal in Finland, however passive is permissible.
Passive euthanasia is permissible in Germany only on the request of the patient. However, active euthanasia wherein lethal compound is administered to the patient is still illegal in Germany.
On March 2018, the Supreme Court of India legalize Passive Euthanasia by the way of removal of life-support system from the patient who is in the vegetative state. However, active euthanasia wherein lethal compound is administered to the patient is still illegal in India.
Both the active or passive euthanasia are illegal in the country of Ireland.
Both the active or passive euthanasia are illegal in the country of Latvia.
Passive euthanasia is considered to be legal in U.K. in case a patient is in Permanent vegetative state. For example withdrawal of life support system or feed tube, etc. from the patient. However active form of Euthanasia is still not legalized in United Kingdom.
United States of America
Active Euthanasia is illegal throughout the United States of America except in the state of Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont and Washington with the help of the backing of the enactment called ‘Death with Dignity Act 1997’. However, patient has a complete right to refuse medical treatment, which is intern a right to passive euthanasia.
Situation where Euthanasia turned into Murder
- An elderly woman who was suffering from Dementia in the Netherlands was administered a lethal injection resulted to her death. The days before euthanasia as undergone she repeatedly said that she do not want to die. This action resulted in the wrongdoing called murder.
- When an elderly woman was suffering from dementia and she had a will to live. However, her son in the greed of the property instructed the doctor to administer her lethal injection so that her life is ended. On the instructions of the son the doctor acted accordingly. This action was immoral and both the doctor as well as the son was liable for the wrong doing.
The lack of following points led euthanasia to become murder:
- Consent of the patient
- Against the morality and justice
- When the disease is not permanent or severe.
- When it is against the law of the land.
- When a person had a desire to live
- When the family members in the greed of property leave a person to die without even considering the chances of his survival.
Wherefore, the main intent behind the practice of Euthanasia is not to take a life of a person but to relive him from all forms of pains and suffering, which can also be named as ‘good death’. ‘Right to life’ is given in all the nations of the world while ‘Right to Die’ is recognized only in few nations of the world, this is because the nations which have refused their citizen the ‘Right to Die’ believes that because this era is changing minds are becoming more practical there will be more of murders in the name of Euthanasia which will ultimately led to the violation of human rights. While other nations who approves the culture of euthanasia are of the opinion that a patient must not suffer and ‘Right to life’ includes within itself ‘right to die with dignity’. Both the point of views is correct at their place, but some middle way needs to construct so as to achieve collective good. Further, approval of a passive euthanasia like removal of feed tube or removal of life support system in the case when the death is foreseen or when a person is in the vegetative stage. Active euthanasia wherein lethal drugs or injections are administered to the patient is something which must not be approved of.
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