Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: Pinki Virani

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.

Aruna Shanbaug and Supreme Court

On 2/3/2011 Aruna Shanbaug’s case came up in the Supreme Court.  Pinki Virani wanted Aruna Shanbaug dead.  Attorney General Vahanvati wanted Aruna Shanbaug to live.

I have some questions.

Who authorized Pinki Virani to file a petition on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug?  Aruna Shanbaug did not authorize her.  She is not a member of Aruna Shanbaug’s family.

Pinki Virani is not Aruna Shanbaug’s caretaker.  Why does she want to become her undertaker?

What is right to live with dignity?

Why is right to die is presented as right to live with dignity?

What should be the punishment for someone who wants to kill someone through starvation?

I have my answers.

Pinki Virani had no business to file a petition on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, more so when it sought to end her life.

KEM Hospital has taken care of Aruna Shanbaug.  The nurses of hospital have no problem.  Pinki Virani is not losing any money if Aruna Shanbaug continues to live.  Pinki Virani made money by writing a book about Aruna Shanbaug’s suffering.  It seems Pinki Virani wants Aruna Shanbaug dead because she can write another book about her death and make more money.  Pinki Virani is a vulture waiting for Aruna Shanbaug to die and then feed on her corpse.

Right to live is inalienable and not absolute.  The state can hang murderers to death.  However right to live is unqualified and it can be with or without dignity because dignity is subjective.  What is life with dignity for someone can be life without dignity for someone else.    If being blind, deaf, dumb or lame means life without dignity than all such people need to be put to death.  According to some, 80% of Indians do not live a life of dignity.  That means 80% of Indians do not deserve to live.

Pinki Virani is asking for right to die, not for herself but for Aruna Shanbaug, as right to live with dignity.  The law does not provide for right to die.  Suicide is an offence.  So right to die is presented as right to live with dignity.  It is asking for euthanasia to be legalized.

What Pinki Virani wants is death of Aruna Shanbaug through starvation.  Aruna Shanbaug is not brain dead.  She is not on life support system.  If food is not given to her she will starve for several days before death, a cruel way to die and not death with dignity.  To kill someone through starvation is murder.  Punishment for attempted murder should be the punishment for someone who wants to kill someone through starvation.  Someone should file a case against Pinki Virani for attempted murder of Aruna Shanbaug.

It is perverse to punish victims.  Criminals should be punished.  It would have been right if Pinki Virani had campaigned for change of law and death to the criminal responsible for Aruna Shanbaug’s state.  There is something wrong with people who want murderers and high criminals to live and oppose death penalty but want innocent people and victims to die, often without their knowledge and consent.

Irom Sharmila who is on hunger strike against AFSPA in Manipur is force fed.  Sometimes people on hunger strike are force fed.

It is not for the society to decide who should live and who should die because there is no society, only individuals and families.

Mercy killing is an oxymoron.  When you show mercy you don’t kill.

It seems a lobby that wants to legalise euthanasia is at work

Doctors’ report that there is no chance of recovery of Aruna Shanbaug is immaterial and may be wrong.  There are several cases where doctors have certified people dead and those people have woken up during funeral processions.

Aruna Shanbaug should live.  If the Supreme Court decides in favour of Aruna Shanbaug continuing to live, well and good.  If not it means the Supreme Court had sentenced Aruna Shanbaug to death by starvation and Attorney General or someone else should file a review petition and if that does not succeed.  After that there should be mercy petition to President to save Aruna Shanbaug’s life.  Whatever be the case the nurses should not stop feeding Aruna Shanbaug.

Aruna Shanbaug and Right to live

Aruna Shanbaug and Right to live

Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse in KEM Hospital. In 1973 Sohanlal Walmiki, a sweeper, sodomised her and strangled her with a dog chain. This cut off air supply to her brain. Since then she is in a vegetative state in the hospital. In 1974 Sohanlal Walmiki was found guilty of “sodomy and attempt to commit murder” and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

For 36 years Aruna Shanbaug has suffered. Her family has abandoned her.

On 16/12/2009 Pinki Virani, a social activist, acting on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, moved a petition in the Supreme Court saying “It will be an act of mercy to stop giving mashed food and end the life of Aruna Shanbaug who has been immobile for 36 years in a hospital.

The petitioner is kept in this persistent vegetative state by the hospital authorities by feeding her mashed food, which she can hardly digest. She can not speak, hear or see, there is no element of human life in her body.”

The Supreme Court Bench observed that “Law of the country does not permit a person to die.”

But lawyer Shekar Nalpade said “Aruna Shanbaug can not be said to exist in the sense of human beings are supposed to live. It is only on account of the mashed food being put into her mouth that there is a facade of life which is totally devoid of any human element.”

The Supreme Court sought response from the Centre.

The issue was discussed on NDTV 24×7 on 16/12/2009 and on Headlines Today and CNN-IBN on 17/12/2009. Babu Joseph, spokesman of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was present on all three channels. He said who are we to decide and it is for God to take away life. Dr. Deviprasad Shetty from Bangalore said five years later we may be able to find a cure and then what? Rani Jethmalani on NDTV 24×7 and Headlines Today and Flavia Agnes on CNN-IBN wanted Aruna Shanbaug to be allowed to die. They wanted her misery to end. Pinky Anand on Headlines Today wanted Aruna Shanbaug to live. There were other panellists who expressed their opinions.

Right to live with dignity is a vague concept. It can mean many things to many people. There is right to live. There is no right to die.

There will be people who say people with physical disabilities, mental retardation, old age, incurable sickness, homelessness, malnourishment etc are unable to live with dignity. We do not know where it will end.

Right to live with dignity is a euphemism for right to die which many times becomes duty to die.

If someone is in a vegetative state it does not mean we should put that person to death. Our knowledge about human body and sicknesses has increased over the years. Many diseased which were incurable at one time are curable now. Today we do not know how to bring back someone from vegetative state to normal state. It is possible that after some years we will know the answer and cure Aruna Shanbaug.

Nurses have taken care of her and for them she is not a vegetable but a victim. Ending the life of a victim for no fault of hers is cruel.

Aruna Shanbaug has not asked for her death or stop of food supply. Pinki Virani is not family member or relative of Aruna Shanbaug.

Aruna Shanbaug is not on life support system. She is not tube fed. She gets mashed food. Stopping giving mashed food to her will lead to death by starvation which will last several days which is cruel.

No one lives for ever. A time comes when a person had to die. A day Aruna Shanbaug will die. Let her live till that day.

Pinki Virani wrote a book about Aruna Shanbaug in which she mentioned sodomy as rape. It is misinformation. The book was written some years ago. How did she suddenly remember Aruna Shanbaug?

Aruna Shanbaug’s case is different from people going on fast unto death for some political reason for Jains going on santara. They are conscious of what they are doing.

Pinki Virani should try to change the law and make attempted murder punishable by death so that criminals who make the life of someone miserable by their act die rather than victims who suffer.

If you love a person you want him or her to live. You do not want to put to death that person. You will think how his or her life can be made better.

Meanwhile well-wishers of Aruna Shanbaug can pray that she becomes a normal person again. Miracles do happen.

Aruna Shanbaug and Supreme Court

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