The word “Euthanasia” is sure enough to send a chill down the spine.Living in emotional and highly sensitive country like India, the utterance of the word euthanasia is considered as social or cultural taboo. Different religions preaches the “Right to LIVE” and it is a sin to kill.
On March 07,2011,Supreme Court of India,rejected the appeal for “Euthanasia” for Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse hailing from Karnataka. It allowed passive euthanasia, but rejected active euthanasia.
Before we get into the specifics of “Euthanasia”, lets revisit the story of this unfortunate woman, Aruna Shanbaug. Aruna worked as a junior nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital.She was planning to get married to the medico working in the same hospital.But, on November 27th,1973, all her dreams were shattered, when a ward boy, Sohanlal Walmiki brutally strangled her with dog chain and then sodomized her.These acts resulted in loss of oxygen supply to Aruna’s brain, leading to brain stem injury, damaging her cervical cord and leaving her blind. The police then lodged a case of robbery,assault and attempt to murder, but not rape(even though it was forced sodomy) fearing social stigma. The attacker was awarded seven years imprisonment. He was later released,changed his name and is now seems to be working in another hospital (according to few tweets from twitter). Aruna is living in PVS [Permanent Vegetative State] ever since this unfortunate incident. Her own family abandoned her after this fateful incident. Her fiance has married another woman and he now lives happily with his children.
Aruna has been living as a vegetable for more than 38 years now. The nurses at KEM are selflessly tending,treating and nursing Aruna like their own child. She cannot see,speak or hear. She is brain dead.Many doctors still insist that she responds to “touch”. Today,these nurses constitute Aruna’s real family,for having served her with great love,care,concern and compassion for all these years, when her parents and family had abandoned her 38 years ago.
In 2009,Pinki Virani the author of the book,”Aruna’s Story” moved SC for euthanasia. Since then,this topic has captured eyeballs of Human Rights groups,activists, philanthropists etc. On Jan 24, 2011 Apex court appointed a medical team to examine Aruna. On Feb 2011,The committee submitted a report that Aruna meets all the criteria for being in a permanent vegetative state”. Today, on March 7th, SC has rejected euthanasia petition and has awarded “passive euthanasia” instead of “active euthanasia”.
What is Euthanasia or Mercy Killing?
Euthanasia refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering.
Different forms of Euthanasia:
1)”Passive euthanasia” is usually defined as withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the patient’s death. For example, if a patient requires kidney dialysis to survive, the doctors disconnect the dialysis machine, allowing the patient to die soon.
2) “Active” euthanasia or simply euthanasia is where the death is caused by the use of lethal substances.
3) “Voluntary euthanasia”– is euthanasia conducted with the consent of the patient is termed, which is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the US states of Oregon and Washington.
4)”Assisted suicide” -When the patient brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician
5)”Non-voluntary euthanasia”– is the term used, if euthanasia is carried out on a patient, who is not in a condition to express his or her desire to die.
Ever since the verdict,today,there has been an on-going debate on twitter. People are taking sides and are tweeting “pro” and “against” euthanasia,thereby giving their insights over this issue. The tags #euthanasia and #Aruna Shanbaug are trending on Twitter ever since SC’s verdict.
Few of the top tweets being:
The nurses of KEM were elated when SC rejected the petition. They danced with joy,cut cake and distributed sweets to celebrate their happiness. According to them, Aruna should die a natural death and should live till her last breath. At the same time, many renowned personalities and common people are expressing their anger over insensitive SC’s verdict and questioning as to how a person can live as a “vegetable” for more than 38 years? They are all “pro” euthanasia, who want justice for aruna and they want this tragedy to stop.
Frankly speaking, I am in a dilemma over this issue. I am neither “pro” nor “against” euthanasia, because, god forbid, I have not been in Aruna’s body to know how it “actually” feels.
Today, doctors and nurses are in such a helpless situation over this issue. They cannot understand or decipher whether Aruna wishes to live or die.
No one knows if every “breath” of Aruna is screaming,pleading and with utter dismay,asking for her death,saying,”I have suffered enough, please let me die at least now”. At the same time,no one even knows if every breath of Aruna is relentlessly and valiantly,fighting for her life,saying:”What was my fault? “Please let me Live”.
Some people want death for Aruna, some want life.. but, we don’t know what she wants… We can never gauge or understand what she wants, all thanks to this gruesome incident!!
In the meanwhile, during these chain of unfolding events of fighting “for” or “against” euthanasia for Aruna, we have all sidelined and forgotten the main culprit,Sohanlal, who is the sole person responsible for her pathetic plight today. Aruna is suffering for no fault of hers, while the culprit is moving freely on the streets,despite his gruesome act. He indeed served seven years imprisonment, but Aruna has been suffering for more than 38 years.
How does Sohanlal feel about Aruna’s plight today? Is his “guilty-consciousness” pricking him? Is he remorseful and sorry for her plight? or is he laughing his head off, at her plight? If he is not guilty for what he has done to her life, he is a disgrace to humanity!
Why should he be a happy and a free man,when Aruna is being punished like this? Why do rapists,murderers,criminals walk freely in our society, while the victims suffer? Why does social stigma,family,society etc prevent the victims from reporting such henious crimes? It’s high time, Indian laws are sanitized and newer and more stricter laws are implemented to severely punish the culprits and bring justice to the victims, thus enabling betterment of the society.
Everyone fighting for “justice for Aruna”, should also fight for “severe punishment” for Sohanlal. He should be made accountable for his gruesome act.