The Supreme Court deserves praise for its careful handling of the Aruna Shanbaug case. At the same time, its guidelines on passive euthanasia are bound to trigger a debate. No legislation can be foolproof in ensuring that it will not be misused. Doctors are bound by oath to preserve the lives of human beings. They cannot be forced into a situation where they can legally take a life away. Instead of having a set of general guidelines, each case should be decided on merit.
I was immensely moved on reading about the staff of KEM hospital, Mumbai, who have taken care of Aruna for 37 years. The court is justified in its apprehensions about the misuse of a law allowing passive mercy killing in the case of patients in a permanent vegetative state. I wish the legislature takes up laws which need revamping with the changing times voluntarily, before being asked by the judiciary to do so.
The photograph of the nursing staff of KEM hospital (March 8) celebrating the Supreme Court verdict is indeed heartening. At a time when we find hospitals which, even after knowing that they cannot save a patient, keep him in the ICU for some days to extract money from relatives, the KEM hospital staff have led by example.
At the same time, we should remember that even Gandhiji once asked that an ailing calf be killed because he could not bear to see the agony it suffered. Is it prudent to keep a patient who has no chance of returning to normal condition alive with the help of life support? While we appreciate the humanitarian attitude of the KEM hospital staff, one wonders whether it is proper to view the issue from the heart than with the brain. Only the doctors of KEM hospital can answer this question.
Not all are as lucky as Ms Shanbaug in getting dedicated care and support. As long as people have a steady income and can take care of their near ones in PVS, nobody would want to subject them to passive euthanasia. Inevitably, when finances start dwindling and the family if forced to borrow money to take care of the patient, the attitude changes.
Capt Doulath (retd.),
Modern medicine is helping the terminally-ill become more optimistic by the day. They have begun seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Passive euthanasia can be grossly misused. A man does not ask to be born. He should not ask that he be killed. Every human life is precious. No one has the right to interfere with it, not even the one to whom it belongs. Doctors should save, not end, lives.
K. Chidanand Kumar,