Plea in Supreme Court restarts debate on euthanasia
Active euthanasia is illegal in India while passive euthanasia is permitted after a 2018 Supreme Court judgment in the case of Common Cause vs Union of India. Passive euthanasia, however, entails withholding of treatment necessary for continuance of life.
A petition in the Supreme Court has restarted the debate on legality of active euthanasia or physician-assisted mercy killing after it sought the response of the central government in a petition to allow assisted death for persons suffering from rabies.
The petitioner has prayed that a procedure should be laid down for patients suffering from Rabies to allow the victims or their guardians to opt for the assistance of physicians willing for assisted dying or active-euthanasia.
The Delhi high court in an October 2019 order had turned down the plea by the petitioner NGO, All Creatures Great and Small, leading to the appeal in Supreme Court.
Active euthanasia is when a physician actively assists by way of injection of lethal substances to accelerate the death of a person.
Passive euthanasia, however, entails withholding of treatment necessary for continuance of life.
Active euthanasia is illegal in India while passive euthanasia is permitted after a 2018 Supreme Court judgment in the case of Common Cause vs Union of India.
The petitioner submitted that since Rabies has a 100 percent fatality rate, victims suffering from the disease have no reason for hope and should therefore not be made to endure harrowing and painful suffering which precedes death from rabies.
It is the petitioner’s case that the 2018 SC judgment, which permits passive euthanasia, will not benefit patients suffering from Rabies as the disease has no palliative and alleviating drugs. Thus, the petitioner argued that infected persons should be considered as a separate class due to the exceptional and violent nature of the disease and the absence of a cure for it.
“…the inevitability of death makes it a special case and thus victims suffering from the disease have no reason for hope and shouldn’t be made to endure their entire cycle of death from rabies,” the petition stated.