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VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA AND COVID-19





Introduction


This year 2020, when the whole world is facing a global pandemic, Covid-19, a lack of medical investment is faced by the country. Total cases in India has stood up to 39, 36,747 along with the daily average crossing more than 11 lakh. In this situation India is facing lack of treatment availabilities for the patients. Euthanasia is an act of ending life of a person deliberately to end their suffering. There are different types of euthanasia which includes voluntary euthanasia, involuntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia. In this blog, I will be talking about voluntary euthanasia which means to end a life of a person with his consent. Voluntary euthanasia can be done in two ways, either by administrating a lethal dose to a patient ending his life without any pain i.e., active euthanasia or by prohibiting the use of devices which helps to keep a person alive i.e., passive euthanasia.

Voluntary Euthanasia – A person’s fundamental right


In the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, it was held that Article 21 doesn’t include right to die as it implied ‘life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution of India signifies life with dignity. Any aspect of life which makes life dignified may be include in it but not that which quenches it. Hence it also stated that if a dying man is seriously ill and is willing to die then this case can be considered as a ‘Right.’

Article 21, along with ‘Right to life’ also includes ‘Right to die’ but only when there is a death with dignity. If a person whose disease cannot be cure and is in tremendous pain, he has all the right to end his life. When we know that a person has very short life span and is going through a very difficult stage, with his consent his life should come to an end. Also, during this stage when everyone has the right to be treated and there are older people who have various other diseases and covid-19 cannot be cured in their case, voluntary euthanasia should be allowed so that the person can end his suffering and other people who needs to be treated gets their treatment done.

Passive Euthanasia was legalized in the case of Common Cause v. Union of India (2018) by the Supreme Court of India when the patient is terminally ill or in a vegetative state. This signifies that India is gradually moving towards supporting a patient’s right to die. It was held by the court that the right to die with dignity is also a fundamental right under Article 21. The court also issued guidelines for administering euthanasia. These were:


  • Passive euthanasia can only be administered by an adult of sound and healthy mind

  • It must be voluntarily executed without any coercion or undue influence

  • The patient must draft a “living will” when he is capable of making decisions. It should mention the circumstances under which his medical treatment is to be withdrawn. It should also include who is authorized to give consent for withdrawal in case the patient becomes incapable of doing so.

  • The living will should be executed only when the patient becomes terminally ill with no cure for the ailment and no hope for recovery.

  • The document has to be signed by the jurisdictional Judicial Magistrate of First Class in the presence of witnesses and thereafter a Medical Board has to examine the condition of the patient and give approval.

This also raised the question of criminal liability on the doctors which includes section 304 of IPC even though there is no presence of ‘wrongful’ intention in voluntary euthanasia; it is treated equivalent to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of IPC. Section 306 and Section 309 of IPC which states abetment to suicide and attempt to commit suicide are also applicable in voluntary euthanasia regardless of the intentions.

The bill “Treatment of Terminally Ill Patients, 2016” which permits patients to take decisions relating to passive euthanasia, is still pending in the Parliament. In 2019, the Euthanasia Regulation Bill was also introduced in the Lok Sabha which includes active and passive euthanasia. The Bill sheds off the criminal liability of the doctor and the patient opting for euthanasia provided that the guidelines of the Act are followed. It is the need of the hour to pass this Bill in order to support the 2018 judgment of legalization of passive euthanasia.

Conclusion


At present, when there is no vaccine to fight against covid-19, India is lacking in saving the life of people. We don’t know when there will be an end to covid-19 voluntary euthanasia is the need of the hour so that people who may be saved with treatment could be treated rather than people who have almost zero hopes to recover. Though the number of voluntary euthanasia will be low yet it can help a lot of people to fight against the virus. Also, the people who cannot be recovered can make their remark through this covid-19 and save the life of several others.

-SHIBANI AGARWAL

5th YEAR BBA.LL.B

INDIAN INSTITUTE OF LEGAL STUDIES

NORTH BENGAL UNIVERSITY

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