Euthanasia Is Not Being Legalized In India.
Most readers, and people interested in the issue of euthanasia will remember that a small group of pro-euthanasia enthusiasts have been clamouring for the Government of India to legalize euthanasia for those whom they (these thanatophiles) consider as deserving to be killed as a merciful act of relief from pain and suffering. These persistent advocates of the killing of other humans are a thorn in the side of society, who, like blood-thirsty predators will be satisfied only if the Government capitulates to their irrational demands.
A Brief Background to the controversy
In 2002 the N.G.O. Common Cause wrote letters to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs as well as to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare praying that the Government of India enact a law which would authorize the execution of a "Living Will and Attorney Authorization." This plea was based on their contention that the right to die with dignity (whatever that means) was a fundamental right on par with the right to live with dignity.
The Writ Petition (Civil) No. 215 of 2005 was heard by the Supreme Court of India and it concluded that "In view of the inconsistent opinions rendered in Aruna Shanbaug and also considering the important question of law involved which needs to be reflected in the light of social, legal, medical and constitutional perspectives, it becomes extremely important to have a clear enunciation of law. Thus, in our cogent opinion, the question of law involved requires careful consideration by a Constitution Bench of this Court for the benefit of humanity as a whole."
The Supreme Court accordingly referred this matter to a Constitution Bench for an authoritative opinion.
At a Seminar which was convened by the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, which was held on 27th. April, 2005 and which was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Minister for Law and Justice, a request was made to the Law Commission of India to study this matter in greater detail. The Commission agreed to study and give a Report as well as a draft Bill.
In its 196th Report on "Medical Treatment To Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) the Law Commission of India pointedly and unambiguously stated that "The title to this Report immediately suggests to one that we are dealing with "Euthanasia" or "Assisted Suicide." But we make it clear at the outset that Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide continue to be unlawful and we are dealing a different matter 'withholding Life Support Measures' to patients terminally ill and, universally, in all countries, such withdrawal is treated as lawful.'"
In a comprehensive and carefully formulated Report running into 435 pages, the Law Commission of India shows that patients who are terminally ill have the right to decide whether they want to have the "extraordinary" life support systems continued or withdrawn. The Report goes into great detail to show that the patient's right should be respected and it spells out the various conditions under which such rights are exercised.
However, "We have proposed that Advance Medical Directives (Living Wills) and Medical Powers of Attorney be of no effect and shall be deemed void inasmuch as they can be easily abused and create unwanted litigation. We have given elaborate reasons in this behalf in Chapter VII."
The Report of the Law Commission of India contains vast literature, both case law and the statutes of several countries, U.K., U.S.A., Canada, Australia and its States, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries.
The Current Status of the Bill
Based on the lengthy recommendations of the Law Commission of India, and on the draft Bill appended thereto, the Ministry of Health has published a draft of the Bill which it intends to table in Parliament for discussion and eventual enactment. The general public is invited to send comments, suggestions, criticisms etc. to the government before June 19, 2016. The comments may be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Larger Philosophical and Ethical Considerations
The question of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is being debated in many countries all over the world. Of great help to our own debate are the following:
THE WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION has reiterated its strong opposition to euthanasia: "Euthanasia, that is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient, even at the patient's own request or at the request of close relatives, is unethical. This does not prevent the physician from respecting the desire of a patient to allow the natural process of death to follow its course in the terminal phase of sickness." Further, Physician-assisted suicide, like euthanasia, is unethical and must be condemned by the medical profession. Where the assistance of the physician is intentionally and deliberately directed at enabling an individual to end his or her life, the physician acts unethically. However the right to decline medical treatment is a basic right of the patient and the physician does not act unethically even if respecting such a wish results in the death of the patient."
After the Second World War, and primarily because of human rights abuses by doctors in Nazi Germany, the World Medical Association adopted two modernized forms of the Hippocratic Oath - the Declaration of Geneva in 1948 and the International Code of Medical Ethics in 1949.
The Declaration of Geneva states, "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception" and the International Code of Medical Ethics says that "a doctor must always bear in mind the obligation of preserving human life from the time of conception until death."
THE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE adopted a resolution on January 25, 2012 stating: " Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited." One of the M.Ps, Mr. Luca Volonte underlined that "in case of doubt, the decision must always be pro-life and in favour of the prolongation of life."
HUMANITY REJECTS MERCY KILLING
There are thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of people all over the world who are grateful because they have been given a new lease of life in which they can be useful and productive. This was made possible precisely because of medical technology which was able to keep them alive for days, or weeks or even months before they received their donor kidneys or donor livers or donor hearts. If it was not for medical technology they would have died an early natural death.
The propagandists for, and advocates of "mercy killing," either ignore the many benefits which accrue from prolonging life or deliberately choose to prefer death over life. Even the language which is used by these euthanasia enthusiasts is extremist. They use expressions like "in an era where advanced medical technology can have the perverse consequence [ sic] of keeping patients alive under conditions close to torture." (Times of India editorial of 18th May 2016) Such unfortunate expressions convey the impression that medical facilities which help to prolong life are intended only to torture people. They imply that it is better to kill the patients (mercy killing) rather than keep them alive in the hope that both nature and palliative care will help them get back to normal living. In order to put an acceptable face on their demands, these killers make it appear that their recommendations are motivated by genuine care for the terminally ill. They faithfully reflect the altruistic claims made by the Nazi doctors who justified the gas chambers as an act of mercy which prevented their victims from living a painful life of poverty, hunger and illness.
We are living in a violent age in which brother is killing brother, where mothers are killing their babies in their wombs, where life itself has been debased. We need to recover our sense of awe and respect for life at all stages - from conception to natural death. Only then can we become, once again, truly human.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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