In-Depth

Aruna Shanbaug: A 42-year-old battle with life

Shanbaug was diagnosed with pneumonia last week and was put on ventilator support.  

On November 27, 1973, Aruna Shanbaug who worked as a junior nurse at the Kings Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, was brutally assaulted and raped by a wardboy. The assault cut off blood and oxygen supply to key parts of her brain, leaving her blind, deaf and paralysed.

Shanbaug lived on for 42 years - albeit in a vegetative state - on life-support at the hospital, cared for by nurses. An appeal to take her off life support was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2011, but the debate spurred an important legislation on euthanasia in the country. The Hindu gives you a glimpse into her life, her death and the debates around euthanasia.



>Farewell, Aruna

She was kept alive simply because the hospital she worked in and her colleagues took up her case. What would have happened if she had not been a nursing professional?

Supreme Court guidelines on Euthanasia

Active euthanasiaActive euthanasia: Administering of lethal injection to snuff out life is illegal in India

Passive euthanasiaPassive euthanasia: Withdrawing life support, treatment or nutrition that would allow a person to live, was legalised by way of SC guidelines in 2011.

Active euthanasiaParents, spouse, close kin, "next friend" can decide, in best interests of the patient, to discontinue life support. The decision must be approved by a HC.
In dealing with such a plea,

  • » Chief Justice of High Court must create a Bench of at least 2 judges to reach a decision.
  • » Bench must nominate three reputed doctors
  • » A copy of the doctors's panel report must be provided to close kin and State govt. Only then can verdict be reached.
  • November 27, 1973 - Aruna Shanbaug was brutally assaulted and raped by a wardboy-cum-sweeper of the hospital, Sohanlal Bharta Valmiki who throttled her with a dog chain. The brutal assault cut off blood and oxygen supply to key parts of her brain.
  • 1974 - Valmiki is sentenced to six years in prison. He is released in 1980.
  • 2009 - Pinki Virani, author of 'Aruna's Story', moves court seeking a peaceful death for Aruna and that the force-feeding be stopped
  • 2011 - Supreme Court rejects petition. The petition was opposed by the hospital's management and nursing staff.
  • May, 2015 - Aruna Shanbaug dies

>To live and to let go

Even as the Supreme Court considers the need for living wills, a new documentary film looks at the factors that haunt the issue of passive mercy killing.

>Of mercy and ending life

"We could have dismissed the petition [because]...the right to life guaranteed the Constitution does not include right to die"

>Who has the last word?

Legal experts and medical activists share their thoughts on the implications of the landmark judgment.

>Aruna is a child to us: KEM nurses

Would withdrawal of food and medication amount to manslaughter or an act of mercy - 'passive euthanasia'?

>Hospital expenses kept us away, says Aruna's sister

Shyamala, is the only surviving sibling of Aruna who lives in Karnataka.

>Death reignites debate on Right to Life

Her death has once again sparked a debate on the Right to Terminate Life.

>"Passive euthanasia is Aruna's gift"

"She started a dialogue on patient's rights though the system failed her".

>"No one can take her away from us"

"She is ours. She is a part of the KEM family. No one can take her away from us," Ms. Mehta said.



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Printable version | May 5, 2021 1:04:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/specials/in-depth/aruna-shanbaug-42-yearold-battle-with-life/article7223153.ece

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