According to the latest news from Australia, Victoria’s Bill on euthanasia has been passed by the Upper house with a majority of 22 to 18 votes, after vigorous debate. Euthanasia is the intentional killing by an act or omission of a terminally ill patient, who does not have any chance of improvement or is in excruciating discomfort
This is an attempt to allow terminally ill patients to seek medical termination of their lives within 12 months of the time they are expected to die in. There still is a final reading left and it is expected that the bill would be heavily amended prior to the reading. After the bill was passed by the lower house on the 20th of October, many supporters, as well as non-supporters, have come forward with their opinions.
According to religious leaders in Echuca-Moama, This legislation might open the door to a ‘culture of death’. The church pastors are of the opinion that such legislation might propagate a message that some lives are less precious than others. They argue that if suicide is still considered a criminal offense and on the other hand euthanasia is being legalized through legislative action. The supporters of euthanasia contend that the patients who are terminally ill are in immense physical pain and suffering and that in this situation dead would be a boon for them. However, people who attempt to commit suicide are too under severe mental and emotional suffering. We certainly expect a more rational approach to a sensitive topic like these.
According to Ezekiel Emanual, American Oncologist, and Bioethicist, while discussing euthanasia 4 arguments are essential to answer.
- The right to self-determination
- Assisted suicide is sometimes better than the alternative or the principle of Double Effect.
- The understanding of Passive and Active Euthanasia
- Legalizing euthanasia may lead to unacceptable consequences.
Thomas Aquinas formulated the principle of double effect, in his book Summa Theologica while discussing self-defense. According to him “ sometimes it is permissible to cause a grave harm like the death of a human being as a side effect in process of achieving something good. “
A Glance at Countries, where Euthanasia is Legal:
- Netherlands: Euthanasia is regulated by the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide Act 2002. The patient’s request must be voluntary and the patient must be suffering deeply. The patient must be fully aware of the medical circumstances, including such reasonable and alternative treatment. The presence of a living will and affirmative opinion of another physician is also required. The Act requires the physician to report a case of euthanasia to a review committee. Euthanasia not following the above requirements is still illegal except when
- When a medical treatment had been stopped or started which is essentially useless.
- When a medical treatment is started or stopped at the request of the patient
- When death has been sped up as the side effect of a necessary treatment.
Euthanasia of children under 12 is still criminalized unless the Groningen protocol is followed.
- Switzerland: Euthanasia is legally permitted and can be performed by non-medical professionals. However, assisted suicide is illegal as per Art. 115 of the Swiss Penal Code if it is done with malicious intent. The law in Switzerland is unique because the recipients need not be a Swizz national and the physician does not necessarily be involved.
- Belgium: Euthanasia is legal for the past 15 years provided certain prerequisites are met with. These prerequisites are :
- If the patient is in unbearable pain and
- There are no prospects of recovery and
- The patient is able to make rational decisions and
- Two doctors agree with such decision
Though, according to ethicist Chris Gastmans, the number of euthanized patients in Belgium is at an all-time high. According to statistics in 2015, 2022 people have been euthanized. At the time of introduction of legalized euthanasia, it was only extended for the benefit of terminally ill patients. However now, the legislation is also extended to patients with disabilities and depression who face no prospects of improvement. Three years ago terminally ill minors have also been included.
- United States of America: Active euthanasia is illegal, however, physician-assisted dying is legal in states like Oregon, Montana and Washington DC.
The Situation in India:
In 2011, in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs the Union Of India, The Supreme Court through a two-judge bench comprising of Markandey Katju, Gyan Sudha Misra, held that passive Euthanasia is permitted for the terminally ill patients. The judgment discusses the legal understanding of active and passive euthanasia and Brain death. The judgment provides the procedure to be followed for withdrawal of life support system for such terminally ill incompetent patients. The relative or a next friend is permitted to file an application under the Art. 226 of the Constitution, to the High Court. The Chief Justice of the High Court must subsequently constitute a two-judge bench for the approval or denial of this application. The bench must constitute a medical board comprising of a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a physician to thoroughly examine the patient and submit their professional opinion.
The Medical Treatment of Terminally-Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Bill, 2016, though was prepared following the Aruna Judgment had a few intrinsic flaws explained by a report from Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. In 2015, a Public Interest Litigation was filed by an NGO. This PIL discussed the question of a “Living will” or the “Voluntary Passive Euthanasia. A constitution bench in early October comprising of A.K. Sikri, A.M. Kanwikar, D. Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhusan have reserved the judgment.
Current news pouring in from the United Kingdom, where a pharmacist of Indian origin, pleaded guilty to mercy killing his ailing depressed father. Justice Green noted while acquitting him of murder charges added that a conviction would have been “perverse and irrational. With diverse opinions from all over the world for and against the concept, we no longer can be sure of the right from wrong. The need for such laws can only be ascertained after one has closely observed such a terminally ill patient in a relative, or a close friend.
The question of euthanasia is one of the morals, ethics, and law. Perhaps what is indeed the need of the hour is to look at all the defining concepts in the different light. Perhaps we should look at death as the inevitable and weigh it against the dignity during the lifetime, of a terminally ill patient to reach an opinion. Humanity would be to cherish life than to make the inevitable death as yardsticks for high morals and ethics. It is also important to visit our suicide laws and appraise our policymakers with an accurate medical understanding of suicide and other connected terminologies.
- Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs the Union Of India (2011) 4 SCC 454
- THE MEDICAL TREATMENT OF TERMINALLY-ILL PATIENTS. (PROTECTION OF PATIENTS AND MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS) BILL: http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/draft/Draft%20Passive%20Euthanansia%20Bill.pdf
- The Wire: https//thewire. In/186342/passive-euthanasia-bill-ready-but-supreme-court-to-still-examine-living-will/
- The Australian: https//www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-polotics/euthanasia-bill-passes Victorian-parliament/news-story/
The opinions and views expressed in the above article are purely for the purpose of sharing information. The copyrights of the article belong solely to TheBlackandWhite.co
TheBlackAndWhite.co intends to provide a platform for opinions, views, and ideas on diverse legal topics affecting the world. We invite your opinions on the above material in the form of legal articles, opinions articles, opinion articles, research articles or legal articles pertaining to present trends.so as to contribute to the scholarship of global legal content