The right to life is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, without which no other rights can be enjoyed. The phrase "right to life" refers to a person's basic right to live. However, the million-dollar question is that if a person has the Right to Life, does he also have the right not to Live, i.e. the Right to Die? The right to life, which includes the right to live in dignity, implies that certain rights are protected until the end of an average lifespan. This may concern a dying man's right to die with dignity. However, the right to die with "dignity" should not be confused with the right to die in an unnatural way that reduces one's lifespan. As a result, the issue has sparked strong debates in India regarding whether passive euthanasia should be legalised.
It basically comes down to choosing between empathy and humanity. The very concept of euthanasia is based on the idea that a man should be able to live his life on his terms. Euthanasia is typically associated with those who have terminal diseases or are on the verge of being handicapped and have no desire to live the rest of their lives. A highly disabled or near-death individual should have the option to live or die. The goal is that the person dies with dignity, putting an end to their prolonged pain and unbearable trauma. It is in the patient's best interest to be free of constant pain and suffering.
Euthanasia has been a contentious issue all across the world. The debate has grown increasingly heated in light of ongoing developments in numerous nations where euthanasia is legal, for example, India, Canada, and England, among others. Recently, our Supreme Court passed a landmark decision legalising passive euthanasia, in which life support systems can be discontinued the consent of the individual and family members. The honourable court also established the concept of living will ensure that no one takes unfair advantage of it.
Meaning of Euthanasia
Euthanasia is derived from two Ancient Greek words: 'Eu' means 'good' and 'Thanatos' means 'death,' therefore Euthanasia means 'good death.' It is the act or practise of ending the life of a person suffering from a terminal sickness or an incurable condition through injection or by ceasing extraordinary medical care in order to relieve him of intolerable pain or terminal illness. Euthanasia is defined as the purposeful killing of a person whose life is deemed unworthy of life.
For a long time, euthanasia has been a contentious issue in the health sector, with many referring to it as "suicide" if done by the patient or "murder" if done by others. It has been a source of contention for many years throughout the world, with some countries, such as the United Kingdom, still considering it illegal, while others, such as the Netherlands, Canada, Colombia, and three federal states in the United States, consider it legal. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India declared passive euthanasia legal by issuing rules. To summarise, Euthanasia or mercy killing is the provision of a less painful death to a person who has been suffering for an extended period of time.
Types of Euthanasia
This is a form of euthanasia in which a doctor can end a person's life immediately. It includes the use of extremely lethal drug doses that are injected directly into the patient's blood or in such a way that the patient dies instantaneously. People who suffer from incurable pain and desire to end their life to end their agonising suffering choose euthanasia. This sort of euthanasia is frequently voluntary, but it can also be non-voluntary if a person is unable to give such consent. Active euthanasia is also known as 'Positive Euthanasia' and 'Aggressive Euthanasia.'
This type of euthanasia is a practice of intentionally causing a person's death by withholding necessary and basic commodities such as food, drink, and drugs from the patient in order to provide death to such a person who is in excruciating pain and is unable to recover from any disease or injury. Simply put, this involves withdrawing life support and allowing the patient to die naturally. In comparison to active euthanasia, it is a slower method of death. Negative euthanasia is also referred to as 'Negative Euthanasia' and 'Non-Aggressive Euthanasia.'
Voluntary Euthanasia occurs when a person offers conscious agreement to end his or her own life. The most important aspect of this is that it be agreed to with full assent and comprehension.
Non-voluntary Euthanasia occurs when an individual is unable to offer consent due to his unconsciousness and a choice to end that person's life is made by someone else, such as a family member or his life partner.
Difference between Suicide and Euthanasia
Suicide and euthanasia are conceptually distinct and cannot be linked. Suicide is committed for a variety of reasons, including sadness, a broken relationship, a lack of success, or financial problems. Whereas euthanasia is a separate concept in which another person takes steps to end someone's personal life in order to relieve him of any incurable agony or suffering, which must be a bona fide act, i.e. done in good faith. When a person commits suicide, there is no criminal violation; however, if the person fails in such an attempt, there is a criminal offence, as stated in section 309 of the IPC, 1860, which has a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to one year. In the case of euthanasia, only passive euthanasia is permitted in India; active euthanasia is still illegal.
The Northern Territory of Australia became the first country to allow euthanasia with the passage of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in 1996. The Supreme Court of Northern Territory of Australia ruled in Wake v. Northern Territory of Australia that it was legal. The Euthanasia Laws Act of 1997 made it lawful. Although assisting euthanasia is criminal in most Australian states, the prosecution has been rare. In Tasmania in 2005, a nurse was convicted of helping in the death of her mother and father, both of whom had incurable illnesses. She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but the court eventually delayed the verdict because he believed the community did not want the woman imprisoned.
In 1999, Albania legalised euthanasia, stating that any type of voluntary euthanasia was lawful under the Terminally Ill Act of 1995. If three or more family members consent to the decisions, passive euthanasia is legal.
Euthanasia became legal in 2002. In September 2002, the Belgian Parliament passed the 'Belgium Act on Euthanasia,' which defines euthanasia as "the intentional termination of life by someone other than the person concerned at the latter's request." The patient must be major, have made the request willingly, thoroughly considered, and repeated, and he/she must be in a situation of consent and unbearable bodily or mental pain that can be alleviated, according to the requirements for permitting euthanasia. All of these acts must be addressed to the authorities before being permitted in order to meet essential standards.
Patients in Canada have the right to decline life-sustaining therapies but not to request euthanasia or assisted suicide. In Rodriguez vs. Attorney General for British Columbia, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that in the situation of assisted suicide, the interests of the state will take precedence over the interests of the person.
There is a difference between passive and active euthanasia. While active euthanasia is prohibited, physicians are not held accountable if they refuse or remove life-sustaining care at the patient's request or the request of the patient's authorised agent. In the cases of Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacco v. Quill, the United States Supreme Court declared euthanasia to be completely unconstitutional. Only in Oregon, an American state, was physician-assisted suicide permitted in 1994 under the Death and Dignity Act. California State legislative committee adopted a bill in April 2005, making it the second state to legalise assisted suicide.
Position of Euthanasia in India
The legal status of India cannot and should not be analysed in isolation. India drew its constitution on the constitutions of many countries, and the courts have frequently referenced to numerous international judgements. Euthanasia is absolutely prohibited in India. Because there is an intent on the part of the doctor to murder the patient in cases of euthanasia or mercy killing, such cases would definitely fall under clause first of Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. However, because there is legal permission of the deceased in such circumstances, Exception 5 to the abovementioned Section would be invoked, and the doctor or mercy murderer would be punished under Section 304 for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Yet, only cases of voluntary euthanasia would qualify for Exception 5 under Section 300. Non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia would be prohibited by proviso one to Section 92 of the IPC, making it illegal.
Furthermore, The right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution ensures the right to life. It is contended that the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 includes the right to die. As a result, mercy killing is a legal right.
The Supreme Court ruled in Gyan Kaur vs. the State of Punjab (1996) that euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal in India. The court ruled that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution does not include the right to die.
In Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India (2011), the Supreme Court ruled that in extreme circumstances and under tight supervision, passive euthanasia could be permitted.
In 2014, a three-judge bench of India's Supreme Court declared the ruling in the Aruna Shanbaug case to be inconsistent in and of itself and submitted the subject of euthanasia to the court's five-judge Constitution bench.
In the case of Common Cause vs Union Of India (2018), a Constitution bench led by India's Chief Justice Dipak Mishra ruled that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes the right to refuse treatment and die with dignity. It was decided that the Fundamental Right to a Meaningful Existence includes the right to die without pain.
Euthanasia is a terrible and immoral act that is carried out in a legitimate manner. The purpose of the concept is not to take a person's life, but to relieve the individual who is in agonising pain through death. The most serious disadvantage of using euthanasia is its abuse. Euthanasia can be utilised for bad objectives and to obtain illegal benefits from the deceased, as well as against the deceased's will.
In some parts of India, the rule of law is still not followed, and corruption, coercion, and undue influence will operate as hurdles to the practice of euthanasia, resulting in more murders in the name of euthanasia rather than genuine euthanasia. Therefore, both views are correct but there should be a creation of middle way which should develop euthanasia and should be adopted by more countries.