RAKESH BHATNAGAR IN DNA INDIAN
India may be the next country to legalise euthanasia — the right to die in extraordinary circumstances.
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the setting up of a three-member committee of doctors to examine the physical and mental status of nurse Aruna Shanbaug who has been lying in an unconscious state for the past 38 years in King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital. Shanbaug, 60, has been comatose following a brutal sexual assault by a hospital ward boy, Sohanlal Valmiki, in 1973. Lawyer Pinki Virani has moved the top court seeking permission to end her life.
Two years ago, a reluctant court had issued notices to the Centre and the state government on Virani’s petition and had said that “under the law of the country, we cannot allow a person to die”.
Shanbaug had joined KEM Hospital as a nurse in 1966. She was attacked by Valmiki, who strangled her with a dog chain, cutting off oxygen supply to her brain, which left her blind, paralysed and comatose. Valmiki was convicted for attempt to murder and for robbing Shanbaug’s earrings, but was never tried for rape. He was let off after seven years’ imprisonment.
Taking note of Shanbaug’s plight, the court said it would examine whether the right to live granted under Article 21 of the Constitution allows for passive euthanasia (mercy killing). A bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said there is no law yet that permits mercy killing and it could not involve itself in judicial murder. The court will take a final call after receiving the committee’s report.
In another case, the Karnataka high court had directed the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences to give free treatment to HB Karibasamma, 70, for four weeks and submit a report. Karibasamma had sought permission to end her life, and had challenged the constitutional validity of sections 306 and 309 of the IPC relating to abettment or attempt of suicide. Her petition said the two provisions go against Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution that guarantee equality before law of all individuals and right to life with dignity.
- Euthanasia: The Benefits of Mercy Killing (socyberty.com)
- Mother’s case highlights mercy killing’ issues (independent.co.uk)
- Euthanasia/mercy Killing Saves Lives (socyberty.com)
- Judgment in mercy killing case demonstrates need for legal reform (humanism.org.uk)
- Euthanasia: Murder or Mercy? (willmathieson.wordpress.com)
- You: Mother loses mercy killing appeal (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Locked-in’ stroke victim asks for ruling on mercy killing (independent.co.uk)
- Dignity in Dying wants us to legalise mercy killing (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Jail for ‘mercy killing’ husband (bbc.co.uk)
- Euthanasia: Should It be Legalized to Help People Die? (socyberty.com)