Doosra Pehlu

Euthanasia in India: A viable reprieve from suffering or a hasteful and exploitable loophole?

We seldom ponder over matters of life and death, in fact, it’s all around us. At the risk of sounding somewhat nihilistic, life is a potpourri of variables and the only constant is death. So unpredictable and potentially tumultuous life can be, that we might fall into the inescapable pit trap of chronic illness or disability we cannot overcome. A lot of people in this world meet this fate, as gloomy a thought it might be, and what follows are overwhelming feelings of despair, worthlessness and a lot of times, a growing fascination with the end. The scourge of depression is often misunderstood and attitudes are usually dismissive, not deeming it fatal enough to call it a type of illness, a mental one at that. As a result of the misconstrued notion pertaining to depression and lack of importance given to the treatment of mental illnesses in general, there are a significant number of people who entertain, and sometimes act upon, suicidal tendencies and thoughts. They usually perish in a painful way, without any retrospective closure. There is no dignity in a death like that, only loved ones who are left baffled and heartbroken by an endless loop of ‘Why’ playing at the back of their heads.

Euthanasia, otherwise also known as assisted suicide,is what a lot of ‘Right to die’ activists call “a dignified way of breaking away from an existence of suffering into a new world.” Netherlands and Belgium are two countries that spring to mind as it’s legal there in the active form. Patients suffering from incurable terminal diseases can choose to end their lives on their own terms, get to meet any loved ones before they depart and then they are medically “freed” from the shackles of an unhappy existence. It all sounds rather rosy, especially if you have read up on the extremely famous case of Aruna Shahbaug, a nurse who was at the end of a heinous act of assault and sodomy. She was in a permanent vegetative state for 30 years and there was no getting back from that, suffering intractibly. Her kin fought for her right to a dignified end to her suffering in the court for several years, for no avail. It did, however, set the centre stage for future deliberations of this matter and a few years ago, passive euthanasia was legalised. Passive, as a doctor cannot administer the concerned individual a dose of any lethal substance but can stop providing medical services so that they may eventually meet their maker. Over the years, supporters of euthanasia have increased and from time to time you shall find someone who’d discuss at great lengths about a person’s right to die when they want, reminiscent of our right to live the way we want.

Unlike the right to live, though, which is pretty much irrefutable and hasn’t been challenged by many sane folks, the right to die comes with the possibility of a nasty loophole. There have been plenty of cases, in the aforementioned countries, where they even agreed to euthanise teenagers with bipolar disorders or treatable cases of depression. Yes, it’s true and their kin is still running about, seeking justice. While it is understandable if someone extremely elderly who is crippled by chronic diseases and severe dysfunctionality of the body might need euthanasia, a 25-year-old woman being euthanised just cause she stated her desires for suicide, which means that there was a possibility that it might’ve been a phase, is somewhat not right. In the Indian context, euthanasia is absolutely impossible to legalise without the shameless exploitation of the power doctors shall get out of that. At least in the Netherlands and Belgium, they have proper legal and medical frameworks in place to regulate and keep things relatively clean; you need to consult and get the unanimous approval of two or three doctors to euthanise someone. Back here in India, the legal system is ridiculously inept and sluggish, not to mention the medical fraternity is simply not good enough in the qualitative sense. Hell, imagine it being legalised and you go your local doctor to check up on your fever and he’s like, “If you don’t pay me Rs. 10,000 I’ll tickle you with my lethal injection and nobody will ever even implicate me.” Seriously, though, he’d actually have a point. It’s not even hard to arrange and furnish important documents that will prove that he wasted you cause you wanted him to and you had some deforming disease that killed off your desire to live. The only thing you’d gain out of that entire interaction would be the chance to potentially dance with Sunny Leone clones up there in heaven, which in all fairness isn’t that bad a trade-off but let’s keep that aside.

They don’t even have the laws about euthanasia nailed down properly even in the best of places so for those who might’ve wondered if we’ll ever legalise euthanasia, considering that even the judicial system acknowledges this, chances are that we’re not going to see those days soon.

Abhingam Majumdar

I am a person of few interests. Either aloof to my surroundings or going absolutely nuts. My inventory of bad jokes and adages is perhaps only matched by Sidhu Paaji. Love football, been a Gooner since 2007. My life revolves around the aforementioned stuff and lots of metal and I do happen to write poetry as well, so yeah. That's pretty much it, I guess.

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