Euthanasia visit plea in Delhi HC: ‘Don’t want to trouble patient, but help him’
In her plea, the 49-year-old petitioner has sought the court’s directions to the government against granting “emigration clearance” to her friend, a Noida resident in his 40s, while also seeking to stop him from flying abroad for euthanasia
The lawyer of a Bengaluru-based woman, who has moved the Delhi high court to prevent her friend from travelling for euthanasia to Switzerland, said the petitioner is not trying to penalise or “trouble” the patient, but attempting to help the man, who suffers from a debilitating inflammatory disease,
In her plea, the 49-year-old petitioner has sought the court’s directions to the government against granting “emigration clearance” to her friend, a Noida resident in his 40s, while also seeking to stop him from flying abroad for euthanasia, on the ground that he allegedly gave false information for visa both in India and abroad.
Even though the petitioner declined to speak to HT when contacted through her lawyer, her counsel said they do not want to penalise the patient, but want to assist him.
“Right to travel is a fundamental right. There is no doubt about that. We want to assist him (patient). But for that, we will have to stop him. We are not trying to trouble him by filing a criminal case of falsification of documents against him for giving him assistance. We do not want to penalise him. But we are simply trying to stop him from travelling for euthanasia,” advocate Chandran KR said.
Assisted suicide or active euthanasia is illegal in India. In a 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court gave legal sanction to passive euthanasia and execution of a living will of persons suffering from chronic terminal diseases and likely to go into a permanent vegetative state. Active euthanasia involves a physician, who actively assists the process by injecting lethal substances to accelerate death. Passive euthanasia means withholding life-saving treatment.
The woman, who has described herself as a close friend of the patient, has pleaded that his parents, other family members and friends would suffer “irreparable loss” and “hardship” if he is not stopped from travelling.
The petition also annexes documents to show a text from the patient to the petitioner which read —“Looking at euthanasia options. Had enough”.
Suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis since 2014, the friend is supposed to travel for physician-assisted suicide to Zurich. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a complex, debilitating, long-term neuro-inflammatory disease, with the most common symptom being extreme tiredness.
The plea filed through advocate Subhash Chandran KR, said that the patient was under a method of treatment called fecal microbiota transplantation (also known as stool transplant) in AIIMS at an earlier stage but it could not be continued during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“His symptoms started in 2014 and his condition deteriorated over the past eight years. He is now completely bed bound and just able to walk a few steps inside home.”
The plea said the deteriorating situation forced the patient to think about euthanasia through Dignitas, an organisation in Zurich, which provides physicians for assisted suicide.
According to the information received by the petitioner, his application was accepted by Dignitas, first evaluation was approved and is now awaiting the final decision by the end of August 2022,” the petition claimed.
The plea said the patient earlier obtained a Schengen visa, which allows unrestricted travel to 26 European countries, by providing “false information” that he is seeking treatment at a clinic in Belgium. It further claimed that he travelled to Zurich in Switzerland in June through Belgium for the first round of psychological evaluation for euthanasia.
It said the patient does not have any financial constraints for better treatment in India or abroad but he is adamant about his decision to go for euthanasia. The petitioner said he has given false information for the visa both in India and abroad.
The petition also sought the constitution of a medical board to examine his condition and to provide necessary assistance.
According to the petition, the patient, a resident of Noida, was a businessman in Dubai and lives with his parents, who have been taking care of him for the last eight years.
While Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises attempted suicide, the Mental Healthcare Act Section 115(1) states that “any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.”
In 2011, the Supreme Court turned down a plea of author and activist Pinki Virani to stop life support to Aruna Shanbaug — a nurse who spent nearly 42 years in a vegetative state after sexual assault before her death in 2015.
In March 2018, while recognising passive euthanasia, the apex court had allowed a “living will” authorising the withdrawal of life-support system for patients suffering from terminal and irreversible illnesses. It recognised a person’s right to die with dignity.
It had also laid down guidelines as to who would execute the will and how the nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.