• Author Name: Anupama Kumari Rai
  • Details:  Advocate, Bombay High Court, B.Sc, LLM

This is one of very debatable topics worldwide. Should it be legalized or not? This is not only a practical issue but also a moral dilemma. Should human beings have the right to decide on the issue of life and death?                       

The word Euthanasia is derived from Greek word "ethonatos" Which means easy death or good death. In this context we use the word mercy killing. Sometimes it is used in the preview of assisted suicide. But there is a slight difference between assisted suicide and euthanasia. Euthanasia and suicide are also two different concept.                                        

The question thereafter arise that what is euthanasia?              

The painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma. It is broadly classified into 2 type:                                              

  1. Active euthanasia and           
  2. Passive euthanasia                 

Killing or letting die:             

Euthanasia can be carried out either by taking action, including giving a lethal injection, or by not doing what is necessary to keep a parson alive. Here, a positive act like use of lethal substance to cause intentional death is called active euthanasia and withholding of medical treatment like withholding life support system or removing ventilator of the patient is called passive euthanasia.                                   

In India only the passive euthanasia is allowed. But there is no separate enactment for euthanasia. It is regulated as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court, which is held in the case of Common cause v/s Union of India on March 2018 and simultaneously with the decision of Aruna Shanbaug case.                            

Euthanasia is further classified in 3 types based on the consent of the patient.

  1. Voluntary euthanasia: This euthanasia is performed with patient's consent.
  2. Involuntary euthanasia: It is against the wish of the patient.
  3. Non voluntary euthanasia: Where patient is unable to give their informed consent e.g. child euthanasia                     

Euthanasia and suicide: Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering whereas suicide is the act of intentionally cause one's own death for any reason at all. Suicide is covered under section 309 of Indian penal code.                                                

Article 21 right to life and euthanasia:-

In the year 1996 in case of Gian Kaur v/s state of Punjab, Supreme Court held both euthanasia and assisted suicide not lawful in India. The court held that article 21 Right to life doesn't include the right to die. In the year 2011 in case of Aruna Shanbaug the Supreme Court held that passive euthanasia can be allowed under exceptional circumstances under strict monitoring. In March 2018 in case of common cause v/s Union of India, A constitutional bench, led by chief justice of India Dipak Misra upheld that the fundamental right to life and dignity includes- the right to refuse treatment and die with dignity. The fundamental right to a meaningful existence included a person’s choice to die without suffering, it held.