Of mercy killing and euthanasia

>EUTHANASIA, also known as assisted suicide and mercy death, is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.

Euthanasia is a Greek word meaning ‘good death’ and refers to the practices of ending life in a painless manner.

It is illegal in India and most countries of the world. Only ten odd countries have legalised the practice of mercy killing.

Source for the above: Here
Hindi: Ichcha Mrityu

Tamil: Thalaikoothal (well, not really…but more on this later)

So, what prompted me to write about euthanasia? It was something I was itching to read and write about since our Amphi Adda days. Add to that, the recently released movie Guzaarish that centres on euthanasia (aka Ethanasia in the movie) directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali who ensures his audience is reminded that he also made Black—a fact that will be reiterated time and again when you watch this thanks to its cinematography and a few of the characters. Well, this post isn’t to criticize or review the movie (I’ve done that at length on another platform) but to understand the legalities and complexities that surround euthanasia.

Simply put, it allows an individual to voluntarily decide to end his/her life which is legally supported by the law of the land. In India and under the Indian framework of law, it amounts to murder. But, people supporting euthanasia, comprising of a chunk of social activists and human rights upholders, claim that such a wish should be granted as it is not technically “murder” due to the fact that it’s voluntary. When the individual himself has felt the need to terminate his life in all his senses, it is assumed that he has arrived at such an extreme decision only after thoroughly analysing his physical condition. Perhaps intense suffering led to this decision; death seems a simpler way out than days, months and years of pain. So, the tussle, really, is between slow death and intense death. The bottomline is death.
However, there is another school of thought that believes that mercy killing is just a fancy word for suicide, which is illegal and punishable under Indian Law (and in other countries as well). It is a violation of the fundamental Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Another argument against mercy killing is that lawyers allege that it may be misused for acquisition of land, money and property.

When talking about India, one also has to look into the social and cultural context. Tehelka recently reported cases of horrifying deaths in Tamil Nadu that have shocked many to know about the existence of ritual deaths in a country that’s already fighting honour killings (God knows whoever invented that name!). The report talks about ritual murders assisted by the family members themselves who aid in attaining the death goal of the suffering patient, who doesn’t seem to mind the generosity exhibited by his family members. The practice, as the report suggests, is not confined to a particular community, caste or religion. More than a crime, it is a social custom, which means it is an accepted practise. So, shoudln’t we, as sensible citizens, question the very practise that comes up with bizzare ways of literally killing people and aiding them towards death?

Guzaarish faced legal petition on the accusation that it glorified mercy killing. Well, for one, Bhansali chose a controversial topic. And, secondly, legal action is nothing new in a country that pounces on a movie like Billu Barber terming the name as derogatory. The point is not whether mercy killing was glorified. The point is what is wrong in glorifying it? Is it equivalent to glorifying suicide which is unanimously agreed as something condemnable, as it amounts to abusing life and is seen as an act of the coward? What separates suicide from mercy killing is the fact that in most cases, the latter is a consequence of several weeks of medical examination which have resulted in almost no improvement of the patient’s condition. In many cases, medicine doesn’t have an answer. And terminal illness really has no cure.

Thus, what needs some serious introspection is what compelled the individual to take this extreme decision? Are our senior citizens getting the rights that they deserve? Are they being well-taken care of? Are we lacking in well-equipped medical facilities? Is it the health sector that needs immediate attention and renovation or the Indian Law that does not grant an individual to treat his life the way he wants? What is the real problem here? Law? Or the health sector? That’s some food for thought.

P.S. I’m still not sure about my stand on this as this seems like a much more complex issue than what it looks like.

For more basic information on euthanasia, do visit this site. It is US-based but will surely give you a perspective.
Happy reading and happy thinking! : )



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