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Cases and characters in the euthanasia debate

india Updated: Mar 07, 2011 18:55 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition for the mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been in a "persistent vegetative state" in a Mumbai hospital for the past 37 years after being sexually assaulted by a hospital sweeper but permitted passive euthanasia subject to a declaration by a high court to this effect. The court judgment is likely to again spark a debate on euthanasia. Here are a few famous euthanasia or assisted suicide cases from around the world.

Terri Schiavo case: A legal battle between the husband and parents of Teresa Marie 'Terri' Schiavo, a Florida woman who was first went into coma and then a vegetative state after suffering a cardiac arrest in 1990. A feeding tube was used to keep her alive. The issue was whether the feeding tube should be disconnected, thereby allowing her to die. Schiavo died on 31 March 2005.

Sue Rodriguez: Canadian Sue Rodriguez, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, in 1992 appealed Members of Parliament to change the law banning assisted suicide. She also argued before Supreme Court of Canada that the ban on assisted suicide violated the constitution by curbing her rights of personal liberty and autonomy guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court ultimately ruled against Rodriguez, but her appeal galvanized the Canadian public. Rodriguez committed suicide in 1994 with the help of an anonymous doctor.

Ramón Sampedro: He was a Spanish fisherman who became a quadriplegic in a diving accident at 25 and fought for his right to assisted suicide for 29 years. He died in January 1998 from potassium cyanide poisoning. He broke up the tasks required for his suicide into several steps so that no single person could be accused of assisted suicide. Sampedro's story was made into a Spanish film, Mar adentro (The Sea Inside, 2004), starring Javier Bardem.

Dr Murad 'Jack' Kevorkian: He is an Armenian-American pathologist, who claims to have assisted at least 130 terminally ill patients in ending their lives. He has served eight years in prison for second-degree murder for helping in his patients' deaths. In a TV show on 22 November 1998, he aired a videotape which showed a terminally-ill patient committing suicide through lethal injection. "Dying is not a crime," he says.

Kenneth Minor: An unemployed drug addict who claims he was paid to assist a motivational speaker commit suicide in New York. He was convicted of murder on March 3 for the death of Jeffrey Locker, whose business was floundering and allegedly asked Minor to make his death look like a robbery so that Locker's family would be able to claim insurance settlement. Minor's lawyer says his client simply held a knife against the steering wheel of Locker's vehicle as Locker thrust his chest against the blade to kill himself. Was Locker's death assisted suicide or murder? A New York court has found Minor guilty of murder but his action has sparked a debate on assisted suicide.