Aruna Shanbaug death: Awareness on euthanasia poor among adults, finds study

  • Puja Pednekar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: May 20, 2015 19:24 IST

Aruna Shanbaug’s case triggered a national debate on mercy killing, but nearly half of the 100 adults responding to a study by a student of College of Home Science, Nirmala Niketan, Marine Lines, were found to be unaware of the exact meaning of euthanasia.

On being informed, more than 60% adults said they would consider it as an option if their loved ones were suffering.

Euthanasia is the act of putting to death painlessly or allowing to die, as by withholding extreme medical measures, a person or animal suffering from an incurable, especially a painful, disease or condition.

The study was conducted by Supriya Rai, a master’s student, from June 2014 to April 2015 to observe the awareness among adults between 40 and 50 years.

Only 44% respondents were aware of the different types of euthanasia, but not their exact meanings, the study found.

Awareness regarding rights of patients was dismal. Only 12% respondents knew that in active euthanasia, patients have the right to demand death. While only 8% knew that passive euthanasia is the patient’s relatives requesting for death, most did not know that even caretakers can make this request.

A majority of the respondents were unaware of the Supreme Court guidelines in 2011 legalising passive euthanasia in the form of withdrawing life support, treatment or nutrition that would allow a person to live.

“There are a lot of myths surrounding euthanasia and very few people actually know the facts,” said Dr Kamini Rege, assistant professor, department of human development at the college, who guided Rai in the study. “At present, the debate on euthanasia is revolving around moral and legal issues and it is necessary to get adults aware.”

After being briefed, almost 63% said they would consider it if a loved one was suffering. The remaining said it is the family’s responsibility to look after the patient and that taking life was not in mortal hands, the study said.

At least 58% agreed that medical professionals should be allowed to make the final decision.

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