Should Mercy Killing Be Legalised

Lying on the bed of a super specialty hospital in New Delhi, suffering from incapacitating physical disorder, a frail figure, entangled in the mesh of drips, implored the doctor to help him die with dignity. The patient none other than D L Reddy, the renowned U S- based businessman, was suffering from prostrate cancer and wanted the doctor attending on him to relieve him of the racking pain. “It is better to die than live like a vegetable," he pleads.

For the protagonists of mercy killing, this is perhaps the right cause and the perfect time to allow the patient to embrace death and put an end to his unbearable pain for an eternal peaceful abode.

If human beings have the freedom to live with dignity should they be deprived of their right to die in dignity? After all as an individual, you decide where to marry, you decide where to work, and at the last hurdle of your life, you should be allowed to choose how do you want to end your life.

Euthanasia or mercy killing is the bringing about of the gentle death of a patient in the case of a painful, chronic and incurable disease. It is a practice of ending the life of a person or animal in a painless or minimally painful way for merciful reasons usually to end the suffering of a patient before death.

Euthanasia, an ancient Greek word literally mean “Good Death"

Terminally ill patients, be it cancer, AIDS, accidental or traumatic coma, The children, old women and men afflicted with the diseases undergo excruciating pain In such a situation, if death is not imminent but sure, the question arises why not the patient be artificially induced for a “good death", of course medically

PROPOSALS FOR ITS LEGALISATION

Proposing legalisation of mercy killing, the Kerala Law Reforms Commission (KLRC) had stated that mercy killing could be considered in cases where death is the only salvation as preservation of life would be medically impossible and visited with insufferable physical or mental pain.

Apart from the miserable pain, that the patient goes through, the trauma and the emotional turmoil of his relatives is starking. To see your close ones suffering is not an easy situation to handle. Why must a family suffer as a loved one slowly and perhaps painfully wends his or her way to a "natural" death?

The essence of human life is to be able to live a dignified life but when some law forces you to live in intense pain and humiliation, there seems to be something wrong with our society. You wish the laws could be changed.Who are we to prolong the life of one who is suffering when he has himself decided to end his life?

The Indian Law Commission has asked the government to consider if a legislation can be enacted under which life-support systems can be withdrawn in the best interests of terminally ill patients. The commission has submitted its report to the Law Ministry, further sent to the Health Ministry.

CHOICE BETWEEN DEATH AND LIVING HELL

Legalizing mercy killing will help freeing a person from shackles of life worse than death. Sometimes incurable medical condition makes life of a person and his near and dear-ones a living hell.

The KLRC recommended that mercy killing should be legalized on humanitarian grounds. Solace, compassion, justice and humanism make euthanasia a legally permissible farewell to life in its misery and desperation.

CRITICISM

However, the issue of legalizing euthanasia has been a bone of contention throughout the world and will continue to do so due to fear of its misuse and/overuse. Critics have cited examples in cases where the patient is pressured by family members to give consent to the ending of their lives. But this should not be an excuse for the law makers to take a backseat on this burning issue. Criticism is bound to pour in for every bold step you take. That does not mean that every enterprising move should come to a grinding halt.

STEPS TO TACKLE ITS MISUSE,IF ANY.

Stringent laws and strict vigil by the administration in implementation of euthanasia should ensure safeguards against such a situation, and other instances of coercion and fraud

Every case will have to be carefully monitored taking into consideration the point of views of the patient, the relatives and the doctors. This decision is based on the patients' rights and dignity, doctors' rights, religious beliefs, society's views ,morality and other resolutions available.

Obviously legalization of euthanasia should not include anyone wanting to end their life at the flimsiest of excuses. Taking this into account the Kerala Law Reforms panel suggested that mercy killing should be carried out with the written sanction of three state-recognized doctors certifying that the patient under consideration is a fit case for euthanasia.

At present doctors are afraid to openly discuss end-of-life decisions with patients due to absence of any legislation. This prevents an open and honest relationship between doctor and patient in which the doctor can discover the patient’s wishes regarding his/her own life and death.

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In brief mercy killing should be legalised because :

1) The patient is near his or her end.

2) The patient has unendurable pain.

3) All possible ways to avoid the pain have been attempted but are useless.

4) The patient expresses his or her own will to accept mercy, they are never forced.

SCENARIO IN INDIA AND OTHER COUNTRIES

While in India the debate continues,Netherlands was the first European country to legalise euthanasia in 2002, Belgium passed a law permitting voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide in May 2002, according to Alan G. Williams, JD, Reviewer Physicians Medical Legal Prevention, LLC, as detailed in JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association)

The state of Oregon in the USA has a ‘Death with Dignity’ law, which has been in place for almost 10 years. It has allowed terminally ill patients to take legal, proscribed medication to end their suffering. Under The Death with Dignity Act in Oregon, doctors signed only 96 prescriptions for lethal doses of medication from 1998 through 2000. By, comparison, physicians already euthanise roughly 4000 Dutch each year.

Polls show that the euthanasia law is popular in Europe, and other countries may follow.

In the Doctor NDTV Opinion poll, 67 % people in India voted in favour of euthanasia.

GROWING NUMBER OF APPEALS FOR MERCY KILLING

Appeals for legalising euthanasia are pouring in from different states of the country.

Recently, a family in Rajasthan, suffering from an undiagnosed disease, has sought the president's permission for mercy killing. Six members of the family, including two women, are on an indefinite hunger strike in Sheopur area of Jaipur district to highlight their plight Vaishani Devi, 65, has had the disease since she was 10. The disease was passed on to his sons and her daughter. One of her sons died. This is not a solitary case.

A year ago, the case of Aruna Shanbag hit headlines when writer Pinki Virani approached the court to win Aruna the right to die after she was left in a vegetative state. Aruna who was working as a nurse in Mumbai's KEM hospital, was sexually assaulted and sodomised in Nov 1973 by a ward boy. The rapist strangulated the then 24-year old Aruna with a dog chain cutting off blood supply to her brain, leaving her blind, paralysed and speechless.

Euthanasia has gained significant human interest in the Indian society and even Bollywood of late is catching up on the trend.

Bhansali's latest release Guzaarish has touched the sensitive issue of mercy killing. Euthanasia is illegal in India and laws governing it are vague and Guzaarish attempts to bring the issue to the forefront. The film shows Hrithik Roshan, a magician left immobilised from the neck down after an accident and his struggle to end his life with dignity. The movie is inspired from the Spanish flick The Sea Inside, which showed the real life tale of sailor Ramon Sampedro, paralysed after a diving accident. Sampedro was bedridden for 28 years and struggled to earn his right to die.

EXPERT VIEW

Dr K Subbha Rao, an experienced radiologist, who has returned to India after serving over four decades in the United States says, “I propose, I second and support mercy killing. I do not find a reason for providing expensive treatment to those who are terminally ill, have no scope for survival and who are merely surviving on somebody’s mercy." Even after knowing fully well that all efforts would prove futile, doctors continue to carry out surgical operations on terminally ill patients in the name of treatment.

Though most of the medical practitioners endorse the idea of euthanasia, only a daring few practice it and reveal it.

At the end there seems no real distinction between killing and letting die.