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While the former is committed on the whims and fancies of the individual, the latter states a reasonable ground for one’s decision to rise above the everyday fight for survival. Suicide is very much a distinct concept from euthanasia. For a death to be a suicide, a person must have indulged into the act of killing himself due to various reasons like quarrel with one’s lover, family problems, financial problems, problems related to one’s personal life or any other such problems. But in case of euthanasia one decides to end his/her own life for certain health reasons only. Also, in case of suicide a person takes such a decision without telling it to anybody. Whereas in case of euthanasia a person can decide to terminate his life after consulting and taking expert opinion of the doctors. Euthanasia (passive)1 is the deliberate killing of a person for the benefit of that person. In most cases euthanasia is carried out because the person to die asks for it, but there are cases of euthanasia where a person cannot make such a request. A person who undergoes euthanasia is usually terminally ill, but there are other situations in which some people want euthanasia for unbearable agony. The right to life does not mean mere animal existence2. The State has an interest preserving life but this duty is not absolute and the patient’s right to privacy outweighs it3. In the celebrated case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab4 the apex court of India has held that though there exists “no right to die” but certainly when the natural process of certain death has commenced, right to dignified procedure of death cannot be denied. “The “right to life” including the right to live with human dignity would mean the existence of such a right up to the end of natural life. This also includes
the right to dignified procedure of death. In other words, this may include the right of a dying man to also die with dignity when the life is ebbing out”5 The Courts in US have on various occasions said that, “We can conceive of no State interest great enough to compel the parents to continue to submit their child to a life support system in this instance. To do so would merely prolong the death of a child terminally ill, wholly lacking in cognitive brain functioning, completely unaware of his surroundings, and with no hope of development of any awarenessl l l 6” The Supreme Court of United States has recently allowed the plea of husband of a terminally ill woman for withdrawing the feeding and hydration tubes.7 Thus there remains hardly any doubt that right to die with dignity is included in right to live with dignity. Punjab8 has categorically opined: The Supreme Court in Gian Kaur v. State of
“Premature termination of life in case of a dying man who is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state may fall within the ambit of the ‘right to die’ with dignity as a part of right to live with dignity, when death due to termination of natural life is certain and imminent and the process of natural death has commenced. These are not cases of extinguishing life but only of accelerating conclusion of the process of natural death, which has already commenced…. Since the ‘right to die’ is not included in the ‘right to life’ under Article 21, for the same reason, ‘right to live with human dignity’ cannot be construed to include in its ambit the right to terminate natural life, at least before commencement of the natural process of certain death.” Dying patients’ basic human rights are seen to be violated when they lack the knowledge and power to make decisions, which, in turn, diminishes dignity. Patients have the right to know their condition, to choose or to reject the treatment regimen, to choose or to reject attempts to prolong their life, and to decide fully as to the disposal of their remains. Theology Tying the Concept of Suicide and Euthanasia...... “Those who promote this last, fatal escape as a “right” should remember that such a “right” may quickly become an expectation and, finally, even a “duty” to die. We fear eventually some individuals and families will be forced to put financial concerns above the needs of loved ones.” l l l From a statement against assisted suicide by members of Michigan’s Religious Leaders Forum, a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders (5/7/98). The relationship between religion and suicide attempts has received even less attention. Both Hinduism and Buddhism oppose suicide as an act of destroying life. However, a distinction is made in both traditions between self-regarding (or self–destructive) reasons and other-regarding (or compassionate) motives for seeking death. Suicide (self-deliverance) is accepted by a number of faiths. There is a Jaina ethic of voluntary death through fasting, for instance. It is often thought that the Roman Catholic Church absolutely prohibits suicide, but Catholic theologians have confirmed that the prohibition, whilst being the Vatican’s current position, is not an inviolable one. Prayopavesa, or fasting to death, is an acceptable way for a Hindu to end their life in certain circumstances. Christians generally have considered the taking of one’s own life to be a violation of the sanctity of life and a refusal to submit to the will of God, except for those who act out of psychotic compulsion.
Some of these differences may be due to under reporting in religious countries because of concerns over stigma.9 Hindu and Buddhist scholars have found support for this so-called “active” euthanasia in their traditions by reflecting on the meaning of death as a door to liberation, the culmination of life in detachment from the material world. They then go a step further by linking compassion to the norm of self-similitude. So euthanasia can be seen as a compassionate act or a “mercy killing” for a dying person striving to the highest purpose of human destiny, liberation. Under Hinduism there are two divergent Hindu views on euthanasia, firstly, that by helping to end a painful life a person is performing a good deed and so fulfilling their moral obligations, secondly, that by helping to end a life, even one filled with suffering, a person is disturbing the timing of the cycle of death and rebirth. This is a bad thing to do, and those involved in the euthanasia will take on the remaining karma of the patient. Nowadays, few faiths prohibit passive euthanasia, or refusal of treatment decisions. Those that do tend to oppose it include conservative Evangelicals, Islam, and the Mormon Church. The Trinity of Suicide, Euthanasia and Religion has Drawn the Conclusion..... Well the way to find out whether to apply critical, rational thinking to their chosen work as lawmakers or to apply the religious belief it is required to research both sides of the argument using clearly verifiable evidence and then to balance the harm and the good to society irrespective of personal preference. An honest man, who has done his job with utmost extent of commitment, has fallen into such a state that each day of his survival is like going through the process of death, then it would be better for him and his close family members not to see him suffer everyday. An acceptance of death in such a circumstance will not mean defying religion in any way. But on the other hand if a person on impulse tries to kill himself he should not be forgiven and religious view in this regard is just by acknowledging such people as the ones who are defying law of nature. But even the concept of euthanasia should be applied in such a way that this provision is not misused. Before allowing a person to die, it should be well established that he can be allowed to terminate his life and to give up the suffering he has to go through at every breathe of his life. When religion has given shelter to people suffering from physical pain then why those people have been ignored who are suffering from emotional pain or trauma? Emotional pain can be of far more grave nature than any physical pain. Often questions have been raised as to whether a Rs. 5 lakhs treatment be an alternative for a person who earns Rs. 5000? Definitely the answer pertaining to this issue for many will be No. But in the same light can one justify that even if a person is earning Rs. 5 lakhs that his emotional trauma is not worth sufficient thought that when he decided to terminate his life he should be forgiven. If euthanasia is considered a right then why should the cases of suicide be discriminated by State as well as religious front? References * 1. National Law Institute University, Bhopal, M.P. There is difference between active euthanasia and passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is ending of life of another in order to end that patient’s suffering. Forgoing life sustaining-treatment is passive euthanasia. In the instant paper passive euthanasia is under discussion. Francis Coralie v. Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1981 SC 746 Cruzan v. Director, Mo. Dep’t of Health, 110 S. Ct. 2841, 2852, 2856-2857 (1996) 2 SCC 647 Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 650
2. 3. 4. 5.
In re L. H. R. 253 Ga. 439. US Supreme Court rejects appeal on behalf of brain-dead woman: http://www.zeenews.com/znnew articles.asp visited on 06-02-2005. See also Cruzan v. Director of Missouri Health Deptt., 497 U.S. 261; See also Gannon v. Albany Memorial Hospital 1501 NY Sup. Ct, April 3, 1989, in this case Carrie Coons, an 86-year-old woman, was hospitalized after a massive stroke. Initially able to speak single words, her condition deteriorated until she was completely unresponsive. She was unable to eat or drink independently, was maintained by a gastrostomy tube, and the hospital physicians agreed that she was a PVS patient. Ms Coons’ sister maintained that Ms Coons would not want to be kept alive in that condition, and the Court accepted this. The Court noted that PVS was an irreversible condition, noted that PVS patients were incapable of consciously experiencing or appreciating life, and noted also that the prevailing medical view, as evidenced by the positions of professional societies, supported the withdrawal of artificial feeding from such patients. The Court permitted her carers to withdraw the feeding tube.
8. (1996) 2 SCC 648, 660 9. Kelleher MJ, Chambers D, Corcoran P, Williamson E, Keeley HS, “Religious sanctions and rates of suicide worldwide” (Crisis 1998; 1978–86).
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