A Detailed Note on Euthanasia / Mercy Killing
Euthanasia is the infiltration of a painless death of a person who is suffering from pain or disease that is incurable. It is also known as Mercy killing or physician-assisted suicide. In India, active euthanasia is illegal and is a crime under section 302 or section 304 of IPC. Physician-assisted suicide is a crime under section 306 of IPC.
Right to life is mentioned under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and so the unnatural termination of life is considered to be incomplete and inconsistent with the concept of right to life. As per the regulations of the Indian Medical Council, practicing voluntary euthanasia is considered unethical conduct. Even though in India, active euthanasia is not permitted, the supreme court has permitted passive euthanasia.
Euthanasia is classified into voluntary, involuntary, compulsory, pediatric, geriatric, active, and passive. In active euthanasia, doctors cause painless death by giving any lethal dose but passive euthanasia is when the doctor does nothing to save the life of an individual, like withdrawal of life support/ventilation support. When it is done with the consent of the patient, it is known as voluntary and if the dying person is unable to give or refuse consent then it is involuntary.
Views in Favour of Euthanasia
- Euthanasia helps the people who are suffering from extreme pain and incurable disease to die with dignity.
- Even if any palliative drugs are administered to reduce the pain, they can do so for only a limit. These drugs also have side effects and are not safe therefore can produce unintended harm to the patient in addition to his sufferings.
- Preserving life at the expense of suffering has no morals and when a person is given the right to deny treatment at any point, why not liberate him from his pain also.
- People believe that the person who is suffering from the pain and the disease has the right to terminate his life voluntarily because a conscious dying person can make his own decisions. Acting against a patient’s wish or even giving medical care without consent from the patient will attract legal liabilities.
- Patients and their relatives are generally not afraid of death, instead it is the process of dying that terrifies them hence it is heartbreaking to see their loved ones suffering from such pain.
- People who believe in the quality of living and dying and promote the concept of dying with dignity are against the aggressive measures the doctors have to take attempting to prolong life. They believe that prolonging life with intensive medical care and a life-supporting system for an indefinite period makes dying difficult and cruel.
Views Against Euthanasia
- Doctors and researchers claim that new research has been conducted to come up with a total pain-controlling method that will be more effective than the usual palliative care.
- World Medical Association confirms that euthanasia is unethical because no one has the right to take away the life of another person irrespective of the situation.
- Even the Hippocratic oath states “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest such consel…” and for a doctor, the priority is always to save and preserve human life from the time of conception until death.
- If improvement in the field of medicine and medical research has to occur, then the focus should be given to finding a cure and providing the best of treatment, and not killing an individual. Legalizing euthanasia will promote more research into painless killing rather than saving lives.
- Giving such power to doctors is risky as it can be easily abused. Voluntary euthanasia will make doctors less accountable.
- At times diagnosis or prognosis can be wrong or misjudged, so instead of trying as much as possible, if the doctor briefs about the findings, treatment, future suffering as soon as the reports come, the patient is most likely to decide in favor of euthanasia. Hence it is important to always look for a chance to save a life.
- There is no point in considering consent which is given by the patient especially while suffering from such pain and disease because most of them will be completely depressed and the negative thoughts of considering oneself as worthless affect the decisions and the judgments they make. Most of the patients take up such decisions because they don’t want to be a burden on their families.
Lord Edmund Davis said, “Killing both pain and patient may be good morals but is far from certain that it is good law”. Giving such a superior power to take a person’s life away can be easily misused, misjudged. There are chances of having more nonvoluntary euthanasia.
It is still a debatable topic and for a sensitive matter like this, society and the communities has divided thoughts. In countries where euthanasia is legalized, they should have strict standard guidelines and should include steps like a consultation with psychiatrist, obtaining a second opinion before finalizing the decision.