NEW DELHI: After mulling that euthanasia could be a ruse for grabbing properties, the Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a mercy killing plea of a Mumbai nurse living a vegetative existence for the last 37 years after being sexually assaulted by a hospital sweeper.
A bench of justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra reserved the verdict after hearing detailed arguments of Attorney General G E Vahanvati and several senior counsel opposing the plea for mercy killing made by Pinki Virani who described herself as the “next friend” of the victim.The day-long proceedings was preceded by an audio-visual presentation of the present medical status of the victim Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug in the court hall.In the 15-minute presentation, Aruna was found responding to her surroundings and occasionaly taking food with the help of a spoon.
However, she was not in a position to speak or clearly identify the people around her.But remarkably there was no bedsores on her, indicating the dedication with which the staff of the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai were taking care of her for the past 37 years.
During the arguments, most of the counsel, including amicus curiae T R Andhiarujina, felt that Indian laws did not permit mercy killing.The Attorney General also told the bench that suggestions like withdrawal of food for the victim to allow her to die “will be a cruel, inhuman and intolerant approach unknown and contrary to Indian laws.”Agreeing with the arguments, the apex court said “we would like to minimise the possibility of misuse. Because if you leave it to a surrogate doctor or relative, then there is the danger of them being in hand in glove.”Let us take a hypothesis. Suppose a man meets with an accident and goes into coma, can his be allowed to give the consent for withdrawing the life support system? Because there will be cases where people will manage to get their relatives terminally ill and resort to euthanasia to grab property,” the apex court said.
Responding to questions, the Attorney General said Parliament had also rejected the recommendations of the Law Commission which in its earlier report suggested introduction of euthanasia to deal with terminally ill patients.
Senior counsel T R Andhiarujina acting as amicus curiae and Pallabh Sisodia, appearing for the staff of the KEM hospital, also opposed the mercy killing of Aruna.Both the counsel pointed out that the staff of the hospital had been taking care of Aruna in a dedicated manner for 37 years and were determined to continue with their care and affection for the victim.
In such circumstances, they said it would not be permissible for the court to agree to Virani’s suggestion.”This is a case of passive euthanasia and not active. The hospital staff is really her best friend. Although we respect Pinki Virani, it is the hospital staff who has fed her, washed her even cut her nails. They feel that she is one of us and we greatly respect the KEM hospital. What they have done is marvellous,” the bench said.It said “we are amazed that no a single bedsore has occurred to her. That shows the the care taken by the hospital staff, which is really marvellous.”
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