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Context: France could be the next European country to legalise euthanasia for the terminally ill after the French president called for a law on a “French model on the end of life” within months.

What is Euthanasia?

  • It refers to the practice of an individual deliberately ending their life, oftentimes to get relief from an incurable condition, or intolerable pain and suffering.
  • It is also known as ‘Mercy Killing’ which is an act where the individual who, is in an irremediable condition or has no chances of survival as he is suffering from painful life, ends his life in a painless manner.
  • There are primarily two types of Euthanasia:
    • Active euthanasia: refers to the physician deliberate act, usually the administration of lethal drugs, to end an incurably or terminally ill patient’s life.
    • Passive euthanasia: refers to withholding or withdrawing treatment which is necessary for maintaining life.
  • Arguments for and against Euthanasia:
Arguments in Favour of legalizing euthanasia Arguments against euthanasia
Article 21 provides for the right to live a life with at least minimum dignity and if that standard is falling below that minimum level then a person should be given a right to end his life. The human life is gift of God and taking life is wrong and immoral human beings cannot be given the right to play the part of God.
In countries like India, there is lack of funds and shortage of hospital space. So, the energy of doctors and hospital beds can be used for those people whose life can be saved instead of continuing the life of those who want to die. It is totally against the medical ethics, morals, and public policy. Medical ethics call for nursing, care giving and healing and not ending the life of the patient.
Forcing a person to live in an undignified way is against the person’s choice. Thus, it expresses the choice of a person which is a fundamental principle. It is feared that if euthanasia is legalized then other groups of more vulnerable people will become at risk of feeling into taking that option themselves.
It is an act of painlessly putting to death. So, the motive behind this is to help rather than harm. Legalizing it may lead to a slippery slope effect, resulting in assistive murders.

Different Countries, different laws on Euthanasia

  • Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium allow both euthanasia and assisted suicide for anyone who faces “unbearable suffering” that has no chance of improvement.
  • Switzerland bans euthanasia but allows assisted dying in the presence of a doctor or physician.
  • Canada had announced that euthanasia and assisted dying would be allowed for mentally ill patients by March 2023; however, the decision has been widely criticized, and the move may be delayed.
  • United States has different laws in different states. Euthanasia is allowed in some states like Washington, Oregon, and Montana.
  • United Kingdom considers it illegal and equivalent to manslaughter.

Euthanasia in India

  • Active euthanasia is a crime under section 302 or 304 of IPC.
  • Passive euthanasia is legal in India under exceptional circumstances. The theory of passive euthanasia got its legal status in the year 2011.
Euthanasia in India
Euthanasia in India
  • The 2018 judgment has made it harder to give passive euthanasia an effect as now it involves execution of the living will in presence of two witnesses, authentication by a:
    • Judicial Magistrate
    • Permission from two Medical Boards
    • Jurisdictional Collector.
    • Note: Note: A ‘living will’ is a concept where a patient can give advance consent that allows withdrawal of life support systems if the individual is reduced to a permanent vegetative state with no real chance of survival.
  • Concerns with the 2018 Judgment: 
    • Complex and Cumbersome Process: In the five years since the judgment, no family of a terminally ill patient has benefited from it.
    • Time Sensitivity of Matter: Norms did not take into account the fact that most decisions in intensive care units (ICUs) are required to be made under time pressure.
    • Hospitals exploit the kin of patients financially by deliberately keeping terminally ill patients on life support, even though they are beyond any chance of recovery.
  • Simplified guidelines: In January 2023, the Supreme Court of India simplified the rules on passive euthanasia in cases of terminal illness.
Concerns with the 2018 Judgment
Concerns with the 2018 Judgment

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