The Ethics of Euthanasia. Cases from around the World and India.

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EUTHANASIA- The “Right” to Die


Euthanasia is one of those Taboo topics that individuals try to distance themselves from due to the fact that it’s a sensitive issue. Most individuals try to take a politically correct stand without evaluating the impact it has on the aggrieved party’s life. Euthanasia in itself may seem a simple issue at the first instance, but by probing deep into the issue we are made to ponder a lot about not only its ethical aspects but also the stakes involved in exercising Euthanasia as a fundamental right of an individual.

The dilemma in this issue is a lot more complicated if we were to compare it to other conventional ethical dilemmas because both the stands seem morally right, but there’s a legal perspective which opposes one school of thought and supports the other. Is an individual allowed to determine his death if survival is more of a formality? If so what is the basis of qualifying a case to be a suitable contender for euthanasia? Is the judiciary ignoring this since Euthanasia is an issue faced by a minority?


1. Mr. Ravi B Naik, former High Court Judge and Senior Advocate: (

“When it is not possible for man to give life, who is he to take it away? We should leave death in the hands of God who gave life. There is no law that allows killing by force till a man dies naturally, nor should there be one. In a situation where it is ‘impossible to live’, people die naturally. When they don’t die, doesn’t it mean they can live? It is meaningless to ask them to die without allowing them to live.”

2.  Dr Vasantha Muthuswamy, former Deputy Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, who is regarded as ‘Queen of bioethics’: (

"I am against active euthanasia. In our country, it is very difficult to implement it. We are always worried about its misuse, if permission for it is given. We cannot give life to someone, so we cannot be allowed to take it. Between two evils of active and passive euthanasia, I think, the latter should be allowed but under certain circumstances only, otherwise it would open a pandora’s box."  

Despite these oppositions, ‘Euthanasia’ has sparked off a lot of debate.


There are several dimensions to the ethical dilemmas faced when we speak of euthanasia. Euthanasia is the word for “mercy – killing”. Psychologists state that mercy and killing cannot happen simultaneously. Killing in any situation is not a moral act unless there is such an extreme circumstance of protecting ourselves when we are left with no other option.

The Supreme Court till now hasn’t legalised euthanasia because this can lead to many silent murders. People for the sake of money or property, it may be a family member, a doctor or anybody can misuse this act of euthanasia by killing people.

One more ethical dilemma faced is how can a human take away the life of another human? Is he empowered by the nature to do so?

If euthanasia is legalised, it will surely hurt many religious sentiments in India because each religion may have a different outlook towards one’s choice of giving up on life.


  • A Civilised Society Should Allow People To Die In Dignity And Without Pain:

The practice of mercy-killing has been allowed to some extent by numerous groups or societies through the course of time (Bhushman, 2010). In ancient Greek and Roman empires, assisting an individual to die or killing them was deemed legal in some contexts. For instance, in Sparta, new born children with extreme birth defects were killed. Voluntary mercy killing for old people was an accepted tradition in numerous ancient societies. In the Hindu tradition also we have many examples of saints like Sant Dyaneshwar for instance, who give up their lives when they feel their mission life has been fulfilled (Parchure). Every living creature has an objective in life. Unless one does not strive to achieve them, their purpose on this earth is questioned. It is believed that any organism, as small as it may seem should live a life that fulfils the very reason why it has been put on this earth.

With the evolution of law from traditional religious foundations, many countries like Netherlands and Belgium (legality of euthanasia) have legalised euthanasia and some have allowed passive euthanasia as in the case of India, Canada and U.S. (legality of euthanasia)  But making laws in a country which consists of many diverse religions and each with its own belief about life is a daunting task. In the absence of a proper law that would inspect the cases on individual merit, the sufferers take it upon themselves to relieve themselves of the pain. 93 year - old Kaila Devi Hirawat (as in 2006) was trying to kill herself slowly, starving her way to salvation. By fasting, it is thought that a Jain can free his or her soul, ending the cycle of reincarnation. A Jain wishing to fast until death must receive permission from family members and gurus. About 200 Jains die in India from such fasts every year, according to scholars. The lady ate nothing for more than a month, in an attempt to free her soul from its bad deeds, as part of Jain religious tradition that says fasting can lead to nirvana. Her fast has landed her in the middle of a controversy pitting the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution against a law banning suicide. Human-rights activists sued to have such fasts declared illegal. Jain leaders, a powerful group in India, say the constitution protects the fasts and people have the right to decide to die with dignity. They out rightly refuse to believe that it takes away life in vain. (Barker, 2006)

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  • Euthanasia May Be Necessary For the Fair Distribution of Health Resources:

“Over 53% children in India under five years- that is 67 million- live without basic health care facilities. The children who are future of our country are without basic health care facilities. Is it ethical to care half dead bodies for years without any hope?”

                                                                 -Times of India, May 2008

“53% Indian kids under5 lakh health care”

This argument may seem baseless and a little too practical to accomplish. If for the equitable distribution of resources, it were necessary to kill people who could not contribute, the world ...

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