EUTHANASIA -The Mercy Killing

EUTHANASIA -The Mercy Killing

-Tarishi Singh *

EUTHANASIA…..This article deals with one of the most debated topics in the world and that is Euthanasia. Euthanasia literally means good death but in this context it means mercy killing. The debate is regarding the legalization of Euthanasia. This debate is a continuing one as some people are of the view that life is sacred and no one has got the right to end it whereas on the other hand some say that life belongs to oneself and so each person has got the right to decide what he wants to do with it even if it amounts to death.

In our day to day life we often come across terminally illpatients that are bedridden and are totally dependent on others. It actually hurts their sentiments. Looking at them we would say that death will be a better option for them rather than living such a painful life; which is painful physically as well as psychologically. But if we look at the Netherlands where Euthanasia is made legal, we will see that how it is abused there. So following its example no one wants Euthanasiato be legalized in India. But the question that lies before us is which willbe a better option. In this article, some basic points regarding Euthanasia are discussed and then it is totally on the reader to decide which will be better:Legalizing ornot legalizingEuthanasia.Although the Supreme Court has already given its decision on this point but stillsome doubts arise in our point which we need to analyze carefully and reach at a conclusion.

Euthanasia and Human Rights

Euthanasia means “good death”.It is basically to bring aboutthe death of a terminally ill patient or a disabled. It is resorted so that the last days of a patient who has been suffering from such an illness can peacefully end up his life. Thus the basicintention behind Euthanasia is to ensure a less painful death… Euthanasia is also popularly known as ‘mercy death’ as it is given to lessen the pain of the patient. Euthanasia is practiced so that a person can live as wellas die with dignity.

Euthanasia can be classified into active and passive or alternatively into voluntary,involuntary and non-voluntary.ActiveEuthanasia means puttingan end to thelife of an individualfor mercifulreason by a medical practitioner by giving a lethal doseof medication to thepatient. Passive Euthanasia takes place where methods such as removing artificial life support systems such as ventilators, hydration, etc. are resorted to.

On the other hand voluntary Euthanasia means where a patient who is suffering a lot asks a medical practitioner to end his life whereas involuntary Euthanasiais just the oppositeof voluntary Euthanasia that is where there is no consent of the patient but for it there can be many reasons such as if he is not mentally competent to give his consent and other such reasons.


There are many differentreligious views on Euthanasia,although many moral theologians are critical of the procedure:-


There are two Hindu points of view on Euthanasia. By helping to end a painfullife a person is performing a good deed and so fulfillingtheir moralobligations. On the other hand, by helping to end life, even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth. This is a deplorable thing to do,and thoseinvolved in the Euthanasiawill takeon the remaining karma of the patient.


Islam categorically forbids allforms of suicide and any action that may help another to end ones own life. It is forbidden for Muslim to plan, or come to know through self-will, the time of his own death in advance. Theprecedent for this comes from an incidence where Prophet Muhammad had refused to bless the body of a person who had committed suicide.


Jainism explicitly allows a sharavak (follower of Jainism) to put an end to his life, If the sharavak feels that such an act helps in achieving the mokshai.e.; liberation from cycles of birth & death, which being the primary objectives of the religion.


In “The Declaration on Euthanasia” – Roman Catholic Church’s officialdocument (In 1980) condemns Euthanasia and refers to it as a “crime against life” & “crime against God”.


There is a rival claim between the society and the individual, but the question arises which claim should prevail? Mostly in the health concerns, the claims of the society prevail over the individual. But it has to be keptin mind while decidingthat which side thebalance should bend according to its effect on society and the individual. Individual liberty is the hallmark of free society. Thus, we should consider the rights which accrue to the individual in such cases.

In INDIA, Euthanasia is illegal. If a doctor tries to kill a patient, the case will fallunder Section 300 of Indian PenalCode, 1860.But this is only in the case of voluntary Euthanasia in which such cases will fall under the exception 5 to section 300 of Indian Penal Code,1860 and thus the doctor willbe held liable under Section 304 of Indian Penal Code,1860 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Cases of non-voluntary and involuntary Euthanasia would be struck by provisions to Section 92 of the IPC and thus be rendered illegal. There has also been a confusion regarding the difference between Suicide and Euthanasia. It has been clearly differentiated in the case Naresh Marotrao Sakhre v. Union of India. J. Lodha clearly said in this case. “Suicide by its very nature is an act of self-killing or self- destruction, an act of terminating one’s own act and without the aid or assistance ofany otherhuman agency. Euthanasia ormercy killing on the other hand means and implies the intervention ofother human agency to end thelife. Mercy killing thus is not suicide and an attempt at mercy killing is not covered by the provisions of Section 309. The two concepts are both factually and legally distinct. Euthanasia or mercy killing is nothing but homicide whatever thecircumstances in which it is effected.”

Thequestion whetherArticle 21 includes rightto die or not first came into consideration in the case State ofMaharashtra v. MarutiShripathi Dubal. It was held in this case by the Bombay High Court that ‘right to life’ also includes ‘right to die’ and Section 309 was struck down. The court clearly said in this case that right to die is not unnatural;it is just uncommon and abnormal.Also thecourt mentioned about many instances in which aperson may want to end his life. This was upheld by the Supreme Court in the case P. Rathinam v. Union of India.

However in the case Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab it was held by the five judge bench of the Supreme Court that the”right to life” guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution does not include the “right to die”. The courtclearly mentioned in this case thatArticle 21only guarantees right to life and personal liberty and in no case can the right to die be included in it.

The Position In Other Countries :

• Australia :The Northern Territory ofAustralia became the first country to legalize Euthanasia by passing the Rights of the Terminally ILLAct,1996.It was held to be legalin the case Wake v. Northern Territory of Australia by the Supreme Court of Northern Territory ofAustralia. But later a subsequent legislation that was the Euthanasia Laws Act, 1997 made it again illegal.

• United States : Here, active Euthanasia is prohibited but physicians are not held liable if they withhold or withdraw the life sustaining treatment of the patient either on his request or at the request of patient’s authorized representative.Euthanasia has been made totally illegal by the United States Supreme Court in the cases Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill. In these cases, the ban on assisted suicide by the physicians has been held to be in consonance with the provisions ofthe constitution. In Oregon, a state inAmerica, assisted suicide has been legalized in 1994. Twenty seven lives wereended in 1999 and that number is still expected to increase.

• Canada : Patients in Canada have right to refuse life sustaining treatments but they can’t ask for assisted suicide or active Euthanasia. Supreme Court in various cases has held that in the case of assisted suicide the interest of the state willprevail over individual’s interest.

• Belgium : Here, Euthanasia was made legal in the year 2002.

If we carefully examine theopposition to the legalization of Euthanasia, we can conclude that the most important point that the opponents raise is that it will lead to its misuse by the doctors. When a patient or his relatives willingly puthis life in the hands ofthe doctor trusting him, then why a doctor can’t begiven such discretion to decide what will be in favor of his patient.Another doubt that is often raised is that if the doctors willbe given discretion to practice voluntary Euthanasia then gradually it will lead to asking for involuntary or non-voluntary Euthanasia.But itis humbly submitted that a separatelegislation should be made allowing only voluntary Euthanasia and not involuntary or non-voluntary Euthanasia.As has already been pointed outearlier, we also have to keep in mind the limited medicalfacilities available in India against the number of patients. This question stilllies open that who should be provided with thosefacilities; aterminally illpatient orto the patient who has fair chances of recovery.As the patient himself out of his pain and agony is asking for death, doctor should not increase that pain and should allow Euthanasia. It has been ruled in the Gian Kaur case that Article 21 does not include right to die by the Supreme Court. But one may try to read it as is evident in the rights of privacy, autonomy and self-determination,which is what has been doneby the Courts of United State and England. Thus, we can see that as the said right has been included in the ambit of Article 21, so this can also be included in Article 21. This question was not raised in the case earlier. Again the point that remains unanswered is regarding the abuse of this right by the doctors. But relevant safeguards can be put on this right and thus its abuse can be avoided. One of the safeguards can be that a proper quasi-judicial authority having a proper knowledge in the medical field can be appointed to look into the request of the patient and the steps taken by the doctor. To make it more foolproof some two or three assistant officials including one from the legal field can also be appointed. This will avoid any abuseof this right granted to the terminally illpatients. Here, we have to regard the painfulsituation in which the patient is, and top priority should be reducing his pain. In spite of considering the financialand medicalfacilities, the question is still unanswered that what will be better-allowing Euthanasia or disallowing Euthanasia?