Right to die with dignity should be an individual’s decision and the state should not interfere
Rahul Dass | March 10, 2018 | New Delhi
The supreme court allowing passive euthanasia is a first step that takes us towards dignity in death.
It opens up an option for people who are alive only because the ventilator has not been switched off or the body is still being incessantly pumped with medicines.
Step into the Intensive Care Unit of any hospital and you will come across patients who are on the last legs of their lives. The patients have had enough of prodding and poking. They simply want to die, if only the doctors would let them.
But, till yesterday, doctor’s couldn’t do that as it was not permitted under the law. That changed when the apex court allowed passive euthanasia.
It is going to see a lot of patients, especially those suffering from terminal cancer, opt for it. The pain in the last stages of cancer can be so excruciating that the patient would rather not prolong life, than to continue living in hell.
It is hugely stressful for the caregivers, who more often than not, are family members. One can only look in misery as pain-relieving patches are pasted on the body. The relief is temporary, till such time the effect of the opioids last. Then, yet another patch has to be pasted. This is carried out on regular intervals.
That’s not all. There are endless rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries in the hope to prolong life. At some point of time, the patients simply give up. Now, allowing passive euthanasia would allow the doctors not to forcibly keep a person alive.
The chemotherapies can be stopped. No more surgeries. No more medicines to be taken.
When death comes, it will be bring peace with itself. Even the most well-meaning of family members do not hesitate to start praying for a peaceful death for the patient, rather than the loved one remaining alive for a few days more.
This is one supreme court decision which is bound to be discussed at length in all those homes where terminally ill patients are suffering.
While the focus is on the sick and suffering, there is another group of people who are physically fit but have simply given up on life due to old age. They too want a dignified death.
But, active euthanasia is not allowed in India. Yet, this too must change. Not the young, but the elderly people should have the right to take the decision to end their lives. An age can be set, something like only those over 80 are allowed to legally opt for it.
While the case of a Mumbai couple is in the news for wanting to die due to old age, there are many elderly people across the country who too would want that. This is true for those who do not have support of their relatives and are living alone. The loneliness must be killing them every day. They would rather peacefully leave this world, rather than spend another day in misery.
There are innumerable cases of the elderly who have been abandoned by their children. They may not have savings which can help them see through their old age. They may be frail. If the society cannot take care of them, then it is better to allow them active euthanasia.
However, those opting for active euthanasia should be of sound mind and have lucid thoughts. A committee of experts should check whether someone is not forcing them to end their lives. Only, after experts, including psychologists and police personnel are satisfied that the decision has been taken unilaterally they should be allowed dignity in death.
The country can have groups similar to Dignitas, which is a Swiss non-profit members' society providing assisted/accompanied suicide to those who suffer from terminal illness or severe physical illnesses, supported by qualified Swiss doctors.
Most countries do not allow active euthanasia, but India should consider it even though it is bound to be hugely controversial, akin to clasping the nettle.
The right to die should be the right of an individual and not the decision of the state.
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