Today there is a groundswell of indignation and resentment against euthanasia from several quarters like the theologians, philosophers and ethicists. They oppose euthanasia on moral and religious grounds. They argue that man must not usurp God's powers and God alone must determine when life shall begin and when it should end.
However in my opinion man has a moral obligation to permit avoidance of useless suffering. I do not think God would disapprove of shortening the life of a vegetative patient when it is done out of sheer compassion and after complying with all legal and medical safeguards. Blind adherence to religious dogmas should be no justification for unnecessarily prolonging the excruciatingly painful life of a patient. It is high time we recognised the difference between a merciful, compassionate and benign act of hastening death of a dying, hopelessly Ill or incapacitated person and an act of murder with malice aforethought. Medical euthanasia should now be given the recognition that it has deserved for long. Active or passive euthanasia, be it voluntary (confirming to the will and volition of a person) or non voluntary(where a person is incapable of making their wishes known as they are in a state of irreversible coma or vegetative state and their legal guardian or next of kin make a request to end their life), should be given legal sanctity, after devicing medical and statutory safeguards. What should however be proscribed is involuntary euthanasia which according to me is akin to murder.
Euthanasia should be considered a humanitarian act and not be viewed as something morally repugnant and reprehensible. There's a pressing need for attitudinal change. Thankfully of late such an attitudinal change has been seen across few religious sects, theologians and medical professionals. They now recognise the fact that "death control like birth control is a matter of human dignity. Without it per sounds become puppets." We should deplore the practice of prolonging the meaningless existence of vegetative patients. We should understand that it is the person rather than the body that is sacred. When a person's medical condition has so worsened so as to reach a point of no return, it is better to snuff out his life rather than to force him into a meaningless existence. Irrational sentiments surrounding death should be jettisoned and if death alone can end the agony of a patient it would be wrong to withhold it. It is time were redefine death and re-examine the conception of life. O. Ruth Russel, a legal philosopher wrote that it is "The time has come when were stop viewing death as necessarily an enemy and to recognise instead that it is at times a welcome friend." It is essential that we develop a philosophy of life at the earliest that provides for the acceptance of death when chances of meaningful life have abated.
Unrealistic fears, religious dogmas and an ancient Hippocratic oath should not hinder the course of progressive, humane thinking.
One justifiable reservation that ethicists arguing against euthanasia may however have is as regards the possibility of misuse. This reservation is well founded. Abuses of law are always possible. However this Alone should be no justification for not enacting and enforcing an otherwise benign and humane law designed to protect and extend the welfare of patients. A foolproof euthanasia law would eliminate any possibility of misuse by legal heirs. We ought not to let a rightful fear and abhorrence against misuse by legal heirs come in the way of a progressive, humanitarian reform by which the avoidable suffering of patients can be ended.
Trainee DJS Officer
Delhi Judicial Academy