India’s Stand on Euthanasia

India’s Stand on Euthanasia

This is a guest blog by Shrikant for No Frills Academy on a very important social issue.

What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia, also known as assisted suicide, physician-assisted suicide (dying), doctor-assisted dying (suicide), and more loosely termed mercy killing, means to take a deliberate action with the express intention of ending a life to relieve intractable (persistent, unstoppable) suffering.
Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life. Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces, such as administering a lethal injection, to kill and is the most controversial means.

Draft Bill on Euthanasia

The government has released a draft Bill on euthanasia and has invited public suggestions before the formation of the law.
According to the draft bill a terminally ill patient above the age of 16 years can decide on whether to continue further treatment or allow nature to take its own course.
“Every competent patient, including minors aged above 16 years, has a right to take a decision and express the desire to the medical practitioner attending on her or him,” says the draft Bill uploaded on the Union Health Ministry website
The Bill provides protection to patients and doctors from any liability for withholding or withdrawing medical treatment and states that palliative care (pain management) can continue.

Suggestions in Draft Bill

Here are some of the suggestions from the draft Bill:

  1. “When a patient communicates her or his decision to the medical practitioner, such decision is binding on the medical practitioner,” the draft Bill says. However, it also notes that the medical practitioner must be “satisfied” that the patient is “competent” and that the decision has been taken on free will.
  2. There will be a panel of medical experts to decide on case by case basis.
  3. The medical practitioner has to maintain all details of the patient and ensure he/she takes an informed decision. He is also required to inform the patient whether it would be best to withdraw or continue treatment. If the patient is not in a conscious state, he/she needs to inform family members. In the absence of family members, the medical practitioner needs to inform a person who is a regular visitor.
  4. The draft also lays down the process for seeking euthanasia, right from the composition of the medical team to moving the high court for permission.

The Bill only portends to legalise what is called “passive euthanasia”, as discussed in the judgement pertaining to nurse Aruna Shanbaug.
The Government said Active euthanasia (which involves taking specific steps such as injecting a terminally ill patient with a lethal substance to end suffering) is not being considered “as it is likely to be used by unscrupulous individuals to attain their ulterior motives”

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