Article on Euthanasia

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Text of Article on Euthanasia



    Caesar Roy*



    When a person ends his life by his own act it is called suicide but to end life of a person

    by others though on the request of the deceased, is called euthanasia or mercy killing.

    This paper seeks to discuss what euthanasia is and its possible application in three

    different occasions of a living person since very birth. In ancient societies of the countries

    like Greece and India how the practice of self-destruction was a customary, what was the

    attitude towards the annihilation of life of different religions like Hindu, Muslim,

    Christian and Sikh. Though the purpose of suicide and euthanasia is self-destruction but

    there is clear difference between the two. Euthanasia may be classified in five categories

    and also there are various ways for its application. These apart the opinion of sociologists

    regarding euthanasia, its legal position in India in view of the Constitution of India,

    Indian Penal Code and other laws in vogue, so also the position of different countries of

    the world are all taken for discussion. Although the Supreme Court has already given its

    decision on this point but still some doubts arise in our point which we need to analyze

    carefully. Lastly, arguments are put forward for and against legalizing euthanasia and this

    article has been concluded with a definite comment in favour of legalizing passive

    euthanasia in India.


    *LL.M, PG Diploma in Criminology & Forensic Science & Research Scholar, Department of Law, The University of Burdwan. West Bengal.

    Assistant Professor in law, Midnapore Law College, Midnapore, West Bengal. PIN 721102. Mobile No. 9434320999. Email

  • Key words: Euthanasia, Mercy killing, Suicide, Voluntary euthanasia, Consent for killing, Passive euthanasia.



    Every human being is desirous to live and enjoy the fruits of life till he dies. But

    sometimes a human being is desirous to end his life by use of unnatural means. To end

    ones life in an unnatural way is a sign of abnormality. When a person ends his life by his

    own act we call it suicide but to end life of a person by others though on the request of

    the deceased, is called euthanasia or mercy killing.

    Euthanasia is mainly associated with people with terminal illness or who have become

    incapacitated and dont want to go through the rest of their life suffering. A severely

    handicapped or terminally ill person should have the right to choose to live or die. The

    right to choose to live or die should not be a right allocated for bodied individuals of

    sound mind but to all human beings. Euthanasia is a controversial issue which

    encompasses the morals, values and beliefs of our society.

    Euthanasia has been a much debated subject through out the world. The debate has

    become increasingly significant because of the recent developments in Netherlands and

    England euthanasia has been allowed. As a result many of the nations across the world

    are now hotly debating whether or not to follow the Dutch example. Recently our

    Supreme Court in Aruna Shanbaug case1 has already given its decision on this point and

    allowed passive euthanasia in India.


    1. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, 2011(3) SCALE 298 : MANU/SC/0176/2011


    According to Blacks Law Dictionary (8th edition) euthanasia means the act or practice of

    killing or bringing about the death of a person who suffers from an incurable disease or

    condition, esp. a painful one, for reasons of mercy. Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice,

    explains euthanasia as an act of death which will provide a relief from a distressing or

    intolerable condition of living. Simply euthanasia is the practice of mercifully ending a

    persons life in order to release the person from an incurable disease, intolerable

    suffering, misery and pain of the life. The term euthanasia was derived from the Greek

    words eu and thanatos which means good death or easy death .It is also known

    as Mercy Killing. Euthanasia has been defined as the administration of drugs with the

    explicit intention of ending the patients life, at the patients request2. Euthanasia literally

    means putting a person to painless death especially in case of incurable suffering or when

    life becomes purposeless as a result of mental or physical handicap3. Euthanasia or mercy

    killing is the practice of killing a person for giving relief from incurable pain or suffering

    or allowing or causing painless death when life has become meaningless and dis-

    agreeable4. In the modern context euthanasia is limited to the killing of patients by

    doctors at the request of the patient in order to free him of excruciating pain or from

    terminal illness. Thus the basic intention behind euthanasia is to ensure a less painful

    death to a person who is in any case going to die after a long period of suffering.

    Euthanasia may be classified as follows:-

    (1) Active or Positive

    (2) Passive or negative (also known as letting-die)

    (3) Voluntary

    (4) Involuntary

    (5) Non-Voluntary


    2. Brody, Baruch. (1998). Life and Death Decission Making, New York; Oxford University Press.

    3. Dr. Parikh, C.K. (2006). Parikhs Textbook of Medical Jurisprudences, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. 6th Edition, Page 1.55. Ne Delhi, CBS Publishers & Distributors.

  • 4. Nandy, Apurba. (1995). Principles of Forensic Medicine, 1st Edition, Page 38. Kolkata, New Central Book Agency (P) Ltd.

    Active or Positive: - Active euthanasia involves painlessly putting individuals to death for

    merciful reasons, as when a doctor administer lethal dose of medication to a patient.

    Passive or negative: - euthanasia is passive when death is caused because a treatment that

    is sustaining the life of the patient is held off and the patient dies as a result thereof. For

    example, withdrawing life supporting devices from a serious patient, removing which, the

    patient dies. In "passive euthanasia" the doctors are not actively killing anyone; they are

    simply not saving him5.

    Voluntary: - it is voluntary when the euthanasia is practiced with the expressed desire and

    consent of the patient. voluntary euthanasia is primarily concerned with the right to

    choice of the terminally ill patient who decides to end his or her life, choice which serves

    his/her best interest and also that of everyone else.

    Involuntary: - when the patient is killed without an expressed wish to this effect, it is a

    form of involuntary euthanasia. It refers to cases wherein a competent patients life is

    brought to an end against the wishes of that patient that oppose euthanasia; and would

    clearly amount to murder.

    Non-Voluntary:- it refers to ending the life of a person who is not mentally competent to

    make an informed request to die, such as a comatose patient. In Non-Voluntary

    euthanasia the patient has left no such living will or given any advance directives, as he

    may not have had an opportunity to do so, or may not have anticipated any such accident

    or eventuality. In cases of non voluntary euthanasia, it is often the family members, who

    make the decision.

    There are various ways for euthanasia. The most popular methods include

    1. Lethal injection - Injection of a lethal dose of a drug, such as a known poison,

    KCl, etc.


  • 5. Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, 2011(3) SCALE 298; MANU/SC/0176/2011

    2. Asphyxiation - The most popular gas used is Carbon monoxide (CO). Nerve

    gases like sarin & tabun etc. are also added in small amounts to fully ensure

    death. One of the methods is also Dr. Jack Kevorkians death machine

    (mercitron, thanatron). He is also known as Dr.Death. Its a unique method in

    which a person can end his life himself. With the use of this machine a person

    can end his life himself painlessly at the time chosen by the patient.


    Before discussing the legal position of euthanasia in India, let us try to find out its

    historical background.

    The right to die or end ones life is not something new or unknown to human civilization.

    In ancient Greece and Rome helping others die or putting them to death was considered

    permissible in some situations. For example, in the Greek city of Sparta newborns with

    severe birth defects were put to death. Voluntary euthanasia for the elderly was an