Euthanasia debate: Should mercy killing be legalized in India?

The killing of a patient, who is suffering from a lot of pain or from an incurable disease, with his/her own free will, is called mercy killing or Euthanasia. The issue of whether or not Euthanasia be made legal, has created a lot of controversies. According to the Encyclopedia of American Law, mercy killing falls under the category of criminal homicide. Judicially speaking, all the homicides are not illegal. Generally when killing is executed as an equivalent to criminal punishment, the act is considered legal. If executed for any other reason, the act is punishable. Although most of the nations deny the fact that euthanasia eases or relieves the patient from the constant suffering, there are some nations that have legalized this form of homicide. The debate surrounding this issue is mostly centered around the method used for killing the patient. The request for a lethal injection was made legal, with the passing of the Oregon Death with Dignity act. However, passive euthanasia, which refers to the denial of treatment or drugs to the patient, is considered legal in almost all the jurisdictions.

Now the question arises, why shouldn’t ‘mercy killing’ be legalized? When people have taken the responsibility of putting an end to someone’s life just because that ‘someone’ does not follow what the former has to say, then why not allow the sufferers die in peace? When the murderers are let free, just because they are able to pay a large sum of money, then why not allow the doctors to put some patients to sleep, so that they may not have to suffer from pain and trauma of being ill? The argument that Euthanasia gives the right to kill anybody, is baseless. If the person has his/her own free will to die, to let go of the pain and the suffering, then why not let the death come in a dignified manner? Despite being a humanitarian endeavor, Euthanasia is considered a very sensitive subject in India and there are many reasons for that:

1. The oath that the doctors take is completely Hippocratic because it states that “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone even if they ask for it, nor suggest or prescribe anything likely”.

2. India follows the majority and since out of 196 countries in the world, only 9 have legalized Euthanasia, why would India step into the sea of risks?

3. The Indian values and culture prevents legalization of “Active” Euthanasia, which refers to doing something to end the life of the patient, while the law supports (or rather “now” supports) passive Euthanasia, which refers to ‘not doing’ something that can save the life of the patient. Same thing it is, isn’t it?.

Reasons are many! But the fact remains the same. Euthanasia should be legalized. Not because it happens as a result of mercy but because it relieves the pain and initiates peaceful death. The death of Aruna Shanbaug has brought about the necessary revolution in Indian judiciary as passive Euthanasia is now legal in India. But does legalization of active Euthanasia call for another incident? Shanbaug died after being in a vegetative state for more than 40 years (after being raped in 1973). After the incident, she was abandoned by her family and friends and it was the KEM (King Edward memorial Hospital that had been taking care of her health and well being. Was her life worth living? She was an equivalent to lifeless animal lying on the bed, being fed mashed food, just for the sake of it. Does the Indian law require another eye-opener to allow mercy killing in the country?

The answers to all these questions are still unknown. But, probably, every cloud has a silver lining!