It is believed that Lord Krishna once told Arjuna that in order to get a human body to live, our soul has to pass through 84,00,00,00 species. This is the reason that karma is considered to be so important in life because the number of good deeds one does in life will decide what form of life the person will be gifted in the next birth.
All human beings desire to live a healthy and comfortable life but sometimes they choose to end it using unnatural means. Legally the act of taking one’s own life is known as ‘suicide’ and one who fails in the attempt or survives is charged under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code which is law brought in by the British in the 19th century when attempting to kill oneself was considered to be a crime against the State. Gradually, taking one’s life is seen more a concern related to mental health, and The Mental Healthcare Act (MHCA), which came force in July 2018, has actively worked to reduce the use of section 309 IPC and only consider it in exceptional cases.
On the other hand, ‘mercy killing’ exception 5 of section 300 under the Indian Penal Code, states that ‘any person who gives his/her consent to another person to end his/her life, shall not be punished for murder, but culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Euthanasia is the modern name for mercy killing. When a person is suffering from an ailment for a long time and cannot be cured, then the consent of such a person permitting to end his life is called Euthanasia.
Euthanasia is categorized as active & passive. Passive euthanasia is withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics or medical assistance which are mandatory for the continuance of the life of the person, whereas active euthanasia is the use of lethal substances or forces, such as administering a lethal injection to end the person’s life. The Supreme Court of India in Gyan Kaur v. the State of Punjab, 1966, declared euthanasia illegal where it was contested that ‘right to live under the constitution as a fundamental right also includes ‘right to die.
In Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, 2011, the Apex court again rejected the plea of euthanasia on the grounds that the patient was not competent enough to give consent about withdrawal of the life support system. The patient lived for 42 years in a vegetative state after going through a brutal sexual assault.
Finally, in Common Cause (A Regd. Society) v. Union of India & Ors.2018, The Supreme Court of India legalized ‘passive euthanasia” and held that the ‘right to die with dignity is a well-embedded right in ‘right to life as a Fundamental Right.
Passive Euthanasia was made permitted when a patient suffering from an incurable and prolonged disease had reached a state of permanent vegetative state and could only be kept alive through external instruments or machines.