Monday, April 19News For London

Why Cannot You Choose to Die in India?

The landmark judgement of Passive Euthanasia completes 3 years, it’s time to look back at how far we’ve come.

Photo Credits: Anubhav Lall


Euthanasia or the right to have a willful death was illegal in India until March 2018. It was the gut-wrenching case of Aruna Shanbaug in the year 2011, that led to passive euthanasia being legal only under strict guidelines. Those guidelines included –  the patient giving consent through a living will,  he/she is terminally ill or in an irreversible vegetative state. This still leaves a whole universe of questions for people who want to die with dignity. 

More than anything it raises the question of Active & Passive Euthanasia and Why cannot we choose to die with dignity in the biggest & greatest democracy in the world? 

What is Euthanasia? 

As per the Guardian, Euthanasia refers to active steps taken to end someone’s life and end their suffering and the “final deed” is undertaken by someone other than the individual, for example a doctor (The Guardian). 

Euthanasia is illegal in most of the countries in the world, except a few. In the UK, one would face life imprisonment for an attempt to murder, and the situation is similar in India (The Guardian).  Countries like The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium are very liberal when it comes to willful death. (The Week) (BBC Stories) 

What is Active Euthanasia & Passive Euthanasia? 

While India has now legalized passive euthanasia, the debate continues as to what is the real difference between Active & Passive? 

Passive Euthanasia is when someone who’s been in the vegetative state for a prolonged period and cannot live without medical support is set free, whilst the doctors do the final deed. (The Quint)

Active Euthanasia is when someone who’s been ill and in a vegetative state but is alive without any support, and chooses to end life with the help of doctors irrespective of the probability of becoming better or not. (The Quint) 

The discussion around Euthanasia has put people in dilemma across the country, it also raises a lot of questions about the logical reasoning behind passing a judgement that the Supreme Court of India did, after the Aruna Shanbaug Case.

Aruna Shanbaug & The Landmark Judgement 

Photo Credits: The News Minute

Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse in the KEM Hospital in Mumbai, India. In 1973, she was sexually assaulted, sodomized by a ward boy named Sohanlal Valmiki. He left Shanbaug brain-damaged and paralysed for the next 42 years, until Pinki Virani, a social activist, journalist and author filed a writ petition to request for Euthanasia, to free Aruan from the agony and suffering.

Justice Chandrachud said post the landmark case, “Life and death are inseparable. Every moment our bodies undergo change… life is not disconnected from death. Dying is a part of the process of living.” (BBC)

The Government stated, Passive Euthanasia is allowed only if the said individual mentions this in the living will, when he/she is in a normal state of mind. Why would anyone want to choose death when they are breathing the zest of life in the state of normalcy? Why would someone sign a document that chooses death unless they experience and know what it really feels to not want to live? (BBC Stories)