This Mumbai couple seeks active euthanasia. Is it justified?
An elderly Mumbai couple have sought the president's permission for active euthanasia: with no children to take care of them, they fear falling terminally ill and not being able to "contribute to society." The president's office has said it would respond in some time. But what might work against them is that they aren't sick. Active euthanasia isn't legally allowed in India anyway.
The start of the euthanasia debate in India
In November 1973, Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse at Mumbai's KEM Hospital, was brutally raped and strangled with a dog chain. Oxygen supply was cut off, which affected her brain permanently. Though the SC refused her mercy killing, her remaining in a permanent vegetative state till her death in May 2015 paved the way for passive euthanasia in India.
What is euthanasia, and what are the laws around it?
Using fatal substances to induce death is known as active euthanasia; passive euthanasia involves the withdrawal of treatment essential for survival. In India, relatives can seek passive euthanasia for a patient in an irreversible coma. A court will decide based on a medical report. The Centre has drafted the 'Management of Patients with Terminal Illness — Withdrawal of Medical Life Support Bill'.
The current petitioner's arguments for active euthanasia
Now 79-year-old Iravati Lavate, a retired principal, and 86-year-old husband Narayan, a former government employee, have sought permission for active euthanasia. They have no major illnesses, but they're afraid of falling terminally ill since they have no children. "We don't want others to be liable for our condition later." "It's unfair to compel (us) to wait till some serious ailment befalls," the letter says.
Despite challenges, the couple sees a thin ray of hope
For one, active euthanasia is illegal in India. Secondly, the case would have been difficult even in countries where it's allowed as they aren't ill, said experts. But Lavate says if the president can pardon death sentences, he should also be able to grant 'right to death'. In 1997, a Kerala man had sought active euthanasia but was refused. He killed himself in 2004.