The Supreme Court verdict dismissing the plea for mercy killing of a nurse was on Monday welcomed by the medical fraternity, including nurses looking after the comatose sexual assault victim, which cautioned that any move to legalise active euthanasia was fraught with dangers.
“India is not mature enough to handle euthanasia,” senior Bangalore-based cardiologist Devi Prasad Shetty said while expressing his happiness over the verdict on a mercy killing plea on behalf of 60-year-old Aruna Shanbaug who has been in a vegetative state for 37 years after the assault in a Mumbai hospital.
“It will definitely prevent many more premature deaths and people trying to take advantage of euthanasia,” he said.
Dr. Shetty’s view was shared by Chief Cardiologist of Bombay Hospital B.K. Goyal, who said euthanasia is an emotional issue which can be “misused.”
“The subject of euthanasia is very emotional. When we call it mercy killing, there cannot be mercy and then killing.
The two words don’t go together,” he said and likened it to permitting medical termination of pregnancy (MTP).
There was joy among Aruna’s former colleagues and nurses in local KEM hospital who have been tending to her.
“The apex court verdict is very nice. We are all so happy,” Shanbaug’s former associate Pamela Kushe said.
“We are also happy that the apex court has recognised our efforts in taking care of Aruna all these years,” Kushe, who first met Aruna when the latter was a student, said.
Nurses and their former colleagues at KEM have been looking after Aruna all these years like a member of a family, nurse Bhanuprita said.
“As a result of the care taken by doctors and nursing staff, we feel she is stable now,” she said.
“We consider it as a duty to look after her. The court has recognised our efforts,” she said.
Nurses distributed sweets at the hospital after the Supreme Court ruling.
While comparing euthanasia with MTP, senior doctor Goyal said, “In such a case we should ensure the safety of people at large because when in our country, MTP is allowed, it was misused right and left.
“In the same way, euthanasia can be misused.”
Dr. Shetty said, “Financial constraints and inability to look after cannot be the reason to ask someone to terminate life. This is unacceptable.”
He also expressed his concerns on possible misuse of euthanasia. “I am very concerned about its misuse. I am concerned with the fact that our country does not have the infrastructure to prevent the misuse. When the life of an elderly person, with huge assets is in question, people will definitely take advantage.
“Believe me, this country is not mature enough to handle this major legal issue. It is not possible.”
On not allowing active euthanasia, Dr. Goyal said, “In no case should it be allowed in our country. We are still premature to accept active euthanasia and it may have very dangerous consequences.”
On the apex court giving a green signal to passive euthanasia, he said, “when family has given full consent and it is being monitored by a panel of doctors under the guidance of the High Court and only when the HC allows it in the rarest of rare case should it be performed.”