Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Passive Euthanasia

On 7/3/2011 the Supreme Court bench consisting Justices Markandey Katju and Gyansudha Misra dismissed Pinki Virani’s petition to end Aruna Shanbaug’s life. The matter should have ended there. But the bench commended Pinki Virani for her “compassion” and said passive euthanasia is permissible on a case-by-case basis. Pinki Virani deserved to be condemned for trying to end a life. The decision on passive euthanasia is valid till Parliament makes a law on euthanasia. It is for the legislature to make law and judiciary should not encroach on legislature’s domain.

KEM nurses were happy. They distributed sweets and shouted slogans against Pinki Virani.

The Supreme Court laid down guidelines for allowing passive euthanasia.

1) Every High Court to have a special two-judge bench.

2) The bench to nominate a committee of three doctors in every city.

3) The committee to examine the patient and consult the hospital staff and submit report to the High Court Bench.

4) The bench to issue notices to the State and close relatives or next friend of the patient.

5) After hearing them the bench to give its verdict.

Our courts are busy with many cases and lakhs of cases are pending in courts. Cases drag on for years. Cases of passive euthanasia will put additional burden on High Courts. Sikkim High Court has two judges. Both judges will be members of special bench.

What happens when there is disagreement among close relatives of the patient? A woman is sick. Her husband wants her dead. He has been living in adultery for the past eight years and has fathered two children. Her parents and brother want her alive and are ready to bear the expenses. Whose will should prevail?

What if there is difference among doctors? Two doctors want the patient dead, one wants alive or two want the patient alive, one wants dead? Will it be by majority opinion? What if one wants dead, another alive and the third has no opinion?

Some talk of right to life with dignity. What is life with dignity?

Is the life of a murderer, rapist, molester, abductor, drug trafficker, human trafficker, hijacker, kidnapper, pirate, bandit, blackmailer, fraudster a life with dignity?

Is the life of a woman who defends her molester or rapist husband or abets him in rape or molestation a life with dignity?

Is the life of a corrupt politician, bureaucrat, judge, policeman or policewoman, prosecutor, tax official, government employee, journalist a life with dignity?

Is the life of a prostitute or callgirl a life with dignity? Is the life of a man who has sex with a prostitute or callgirl a life with dignity? Is the life of a criminal who forces women into prostitution a life with dignity? Is the life of a pimp or procurer a life with dignity?

Is the life of an industrialist who borrows hundreds or thousands of crores of rupees from a public sector bank and defaults a life with dignity?

Is the life of a person who leaks question papers and puts lakhs of students to give re-exams a life with dignity?

Is the life of a swindler a life with dignity?

Is the life of a lawyer who engages in character assassination during a trial a life with dignity?

Is the life of a man who has sex with a woman and when she gives birth to his son sends the woman out and sends the child to an orphanage a life with dignity?

A person is more than his/her brain. Brain death is not death. As long as there is heart beat the person is alive. Heart is symbolic of the person. We say “Hearty congratulations”, “From the bottom of my heart”, “kind-hearted person”, “heartless man” etc. It was wrong to define brain death as death. Organ transplants have resulted in changes of personalities.

What is permanent vegetative state? If a person can react to sound, make some noise, swallow food, is it permanent vegetative state? In England, 43% of patients who were said to be in vegetative state have recovered and led a normal life.

Living will should mean something written. It can not be presumed to be what the person would have preferred. If there is nothing written, the person should live.

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