The right to choose death: is India ready for euthanasia?

July 21, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:48 am IST - MUMBAI:

On July 16, a gathering of doctors, academicians, lawyers and intellectuals at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) discussed euthanasia, medically-assisted death, in the light of the central government’s draft bill on passive euthanasia, which is going through the public consultation process.

While there was near-unanimity among the panellists about the right of individuals to end their own lives, some in the panel expressed misgivings about whether a euthanasia law would be abused and misused in a country like India, where medical healthcare was mostly accessible only to a privileged few.

Dr. Roop Gursahani, a neurologist with Hinduja Hospital, who was part of the committee that drafted the bill, felt that the bill needed more discussion in public fora to get citizens acquainted with its implications.

He felt that euthanasia was for animals and that human being needed to take charge of their destiny by deciding their own course of life. He recommended that people should make a Living Will in which they should clearly state the level of medical care they wanted towards the end of their lives or in case of terminal illness.

Veena Johari, a lawyer with Courtyard Attorneys, who is also part of the Ethics Committee of KEM Hospital and involved in medico-legal issues, felt that there was also need to put a redressal system in place to check its misuse: “The consent of the patient is important; there has to be an informed choice.” She recommended penal action against people found guilty of misusing the euthanasia option.

Siby George, a professor in IIT Bombay’s department of Humanities and Social Sciences, also a part of the drafting process, compared euthanasia to practices like taking samadhi, sati, and santhara and said that while traditions still existed in some places to get rid of elderly relatives, there was a need to mark the boundaries between healthcare and ethics. Being productive, he said, is a capitalist idea; euthanisa would mean the “medicalisation of death” with our power to choose to end our lives transferred to medical and legal professionals.

A Christian priest, Fr. Stephen Fernandes, executive director of FIAMC Bio-Medical Ethics Centre, expressed the view that every human life was sacred, so no individual had the right to end her or his life, so the only way forward was to strengthen palliative care in the country. This opinion found little support.

Dr. Sanjay Nagral, a medical practitioner who has been involved in the consultative process for the draft bill, said that it could not wait till a strong healthcare system like that the National Health Scheme in UK was implemented in India.

The writer is a freelance journalist

Some panelists had misgivings about allowing euthanasia, saying it would be abused and misused

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.