Death is defined as the termination of existing life and the voluntary termination of death by sati, johars, Samadhi; etc was very much prevalent in India. Euthanasia is another intensely debated topic about voluntary termination of life. The concept of euthanasia in the legal context has been through a bumpy ride with numerous amendments as to decide whether ‘right to die’ falls under the folds of Article 21 of the Constitution which guarantees ‘right to life’.
The term “euthanasia” has been derived from the Greek word “Eu” meaning “Well” and “Thanatos” meaning “Death”. In the modern sense, it can be explained as “mercy killing”, which means putting an end to a person’s life as a result of a chronic and incurable disease or condition of the individual.
Euthanasia can be classified in two types Active and Passive Euthanasia, Active euthanasia is when lethal substances are administered in the patient’s body while Passive euthanasia is when the life-supporting system is withdrawn and withheld to put the patient to death.
It is the Active euthanasia which has caused more controversy and is debated. It is further classified into voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when an individual himself gives his consent and it has also been legalised in a few European countries and non-voluntary euthanasia is when the decision is in the hands of the patients’ family members and there is no consent received from the individual himself due to his medical and health conditions.
EUTHANASIA THROUGH DIFFERNET PERSPECTIVES:
There has been a difference of opinion amongst the people as some Buddhists consider that the voluntary death of a person should not be authorised while some Hindu texts state that the termination of the life of an individual who is in distress and is suffering from a painful disease is a good deed, while some Hindu texts state that such unnatural termination of individuals would hamper the cycle of death and rebirth. Other religions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc preach that life is a gift given by God and no human shall hinder with the process of life and death.
The deliberations as to whether euthanasia should be legalised or not has been debated for many years. Some people argue that right to die should be considered under the purview of article 21, which guarantees right to life and personal liberty while some people our against this view and argue n that anything related to voluntary death should not be included in our laws.
Earlier there existed a misconception in understanding the terms suicide and euthanasia, most of the individuals used the terms interchangeably. Later, the Supreme Court made the distinction between the two clearer by stating that suicide is when an individual himself terminates his life whereas, in euthanasia, there is a second person who terminates the life of an ill patient in his vegetative state.
The Court also held section 309 of the IPC to be arbitrary and decriminalized committing suicide and withdrawing all the prior punishments for a person who tries to suicide.
THE PERSISTENT DEBATE ABOUT EUTHANASIA:
The issue of Euthanasia has been a recurring decimal with periodic reappearances. The discussion on euthanasia began in 1971 by the Law Commission of India’s Report No. 429. For the 1st time in India, the recommendation of deleting Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code was considered in the aforementioned report. In the case of Maruti Shripati Dubal vs. the state of Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court held that right to life which is guaranteed under article 21 of the Constitution should also include right to die. The case dealt with the unconstitutionality of section 309 of the IPC, which was violative of article 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
An opposing view was placed in the case of Gian Kaur vs. State of Punjab, which overruled the above judgement and opined that right to die should not fall under the ambit of right to life. The Court held that the right to live with dignity also means the right to natural death. It further stated that “death with dignity” shall not be misinterpreted with unnatural termination of life.
Then in the landmark judgement of Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, the Court held that passive euthanasia should be legalised under specific circumstances while active euthanasia cannot be legalised under the statutes unless the Parliament makes the laws regarding the same.
Considering as to whether euthanasia is morally correct or incorrect one must look at the desire to live and die as the two sides of the same coin. The policymakers and the legislators all around the globe have put forth their views in favour as well as against euthanasia. When new areas of rights emerge with the advancement of society, the change of law with proper guidelines becomes a necessity. With passive euthanasia being legalized in India, one can only hope that it serves its due purpose.