Euthanasia: Treading a fine line

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 16, 2014 19:03 IST

The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to all states seeking their views on a petition on legalising passive euthanasia. Here’s a look at the issue, some landmark cases in India and related legislation in other countries.

Different scenarios
Active euthanasia: When medical professionals, or another person, deliberately do something that causes the patient to die

Passive euthanasia: When the patient dies because medical professionals either don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive or when they stop doing something that is keeping patient alive.

Physician assisted suicide: When patient administers lethal medication himself.

In other countries
Euthanasia is regulated by the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide. It states that euthanasia and physician assisted suicide is not punishable.

Switzerland: Assisted suicide is legal and can be performed by a non physician. Euthanasia is illegal.

Belgium: Euthanasia is legal since 2002

USA: Active euthanasia illegal, but physician assisted dying is legal in Oregon, Washington and Montana.

Euthanasia is illegal in UK, Spain, France and Italy

Well-known cases in India
1994: In the case of P Rathinam vs Union of India, the Supreme Court holds that a person has the “right to die”.

1996: SC overrules 1994 verdict and holds that ‘right to die’ is not part of ‘right to life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution. It also holds that euthanasia is illegal.

1999: Four senior citizens file lawsuits seeking legalisation of ‘assisted suicide’. In 2000, Kerala HC holds that voluntary termination of one’s life either by those who are frustrated or those who had achieved their life’s mission would amount to suicide.

2004: Mother of 25-year-old K Venkatesh - a patient of muscular dystrophy since the age of 10 - moves AP high court. The petition is dismissed.

2005: The husband and son of woman in coma move Patna HC asking for her mercy killing.

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