‘Euthanasia’ has been under great discussion recently, as the Govt. of India is planning to bring out a Law on this subject. The Family Welfare Dept., Govt. of India have asked for public’s views on this subject. In that connection, this brief monograph.
Several people argue that, since one’s birth is not in one’s hands, one’s death too should not be in one’s hands. But there is a fallacy in such thinking. It is no doubt true that one’s birth is not in ones’ hands. But, Man is a ‘thinking-animal’. Man has been awarded intellect, reasoning capability , decision-making ability, and muc h more. Every Man and woman would like to live a ‘Dignified’ life. In the same way, he / she has a right to a ‘Dignified’ Death.
Before we proceed, let us understand the difference between ’Illegal’ and ‘Immoral’. Let us look at an example to make this point clear. Piracy and ‘Looting other ships’ is clearly an immoral act. But, in medieval era, such looting was sanctioned by European monarchs, and so it was ‘Legal’ as far as the pirate’s country was concerned. Today, looting of ships is not legal internationally, and so the acts of Somalian pirates are not only immoral, but also illegal.
In the same manner, a persons’ choosing own dignified Death has not so far had a Legal approval, and so it is considered illegal. But , is it Immoral ? Let us give this poser some deep thought.
So the matter of Euthanasia arises. The Dictionary defines ‘Euthanasia’ as follows :
‘The act or practice of killing (helplessly sick or injured) individuals for reasons of mercy’.
We can call term this act as ‘DAYAMARAN’ (दयामरण) .
This is what the Govt. is proposing now by way of a Law, whereby terminally ill patients can be allowed to die ( i.e. have Dignified Death, rather than uselessly prolonging life).
The Govt.is terming this as ‘Passive Euthanasia’.
[ For our discussion, we call this type as ‘Category-A’ ] .
Of course, many a time such a patient may be in Coma, and so, the patient’s near-relatives’ consent , as well as the Doctors’ approval, will be necessary to put that action into effect.
Naturally, Euthanasia is a Moral action, and it will also become LEGAL once a Law is brought in.
Of course, while bring in the Law, the Govt. will ensure certain procedures, so that the law is not misused.
I wholehearted support the Law on Passive-Euthanasia, which is to be passed & put into practice.
However, I would like to take this discussion somewhat further.
The Govt. is presently, only discussing the matter of ‘passive Euthanasia’, for terminally ill & patients in Coma. But what of Terminally ill patients who are fully conscious, who are in their full-senses and awareness, and who consciously want death rather than suffering such as acute, unbearable pain & other indignities like ‘depending on others for their bodily cleanliness & toiletry needs’ ? Do they not have any control over their life and their Death ?
[ Here, we call this as ‘Category-B’ ].
If such patients give a ‘proper’, duly attested, & legally valid Declaration, they should be legally allowed to pass on from this world in a dignified way.
This is not ‘DayaMaran’, but is ‘IchchhaMaran (इच्छामरण) .
The next category is of persons who are today hale & hearty, but who are worried what would happen to them if in future they become ill and their condition becomes like ‘Category-B’ or ‘Category – A’ ?
[ For the present discussion, we call such persons as ‘Category-C’ ].
If such persons make a ‘Health Will’ , they ought to be allowed to have a dignified death if in future they fall into categories ‘B’ or ‘A’ .
Generally a ‘Will’ is made for Financial matters. What is signified by the English word ‘Will’, has been termed in Indian context as ‘Mrityuparta’ (मृत्युपत्र). However, it is now termed as ‘IchchhaPatra’ (इच्छापत्र) .
The above-referred ‘Health Will’ , will also give rise , not to ‘DayaMaran’ , but to ‘IchchhaMaran’ (इच्छामरण) .
Here too, legal processes can be laid out, such as Registration of the ‘Health Will’ , i.e., ‘IchchhaMaranPatra’ (इच्छामरणपत्र).
Mahabharata mentions that Bheeshma was ‘IchchhaMarani’ (इच्छामरणी), and he died a dignified Death, only when he desired. This is the admired-example from the Great Indian Epic, and people must be given that type of choice.
India has a great & honourable of ‘Dignified Death’. When people grow old, some of them feel that they have fulfilled the purpose of their life, and can contribute nothing new to the Society. So, they, of their own free will, fast (stop eating) and stop drinking water and any liquids, and pass on from this world after some days. Such an endeavor, in Hindu tradition, is called ‘Prayopveshan’, (प्रायोपवेशन) ; and in the Jain tradition, it is called ‘Santhara’ (संथारा) . (There could be some minor differences between the two ; but, for our discussion here, we may treat them as similar).
[Here in our discussion, we call this as ‘Category-D’ ].
Some notable examples of Prayopaveshan are, Veer Savarkar and Acharya Vinoba Bhave. Similarly there will be examples of Santhara from the Jains, particularly Jain Munis.
Moreover, it not just ‘eminent-persons’ who choose Prayopaveshan or Santhara. Even some ordinary persons , jansadharan (जनसाधारण ) , choose the path of Prayopaveshan or Santhara. In India, this is an age-old & honuorable Tradition for a Dignified Death. (इच्छामरण).
It may be noted that ‘Category-D’ is the highest level among all four catagories.
This type of Death is at the highest Moral Level. The Society too treats persons having carried out Santhara or Prayopaveshan, as persons at a very high Moral pedestal.
Are we going to deny this age-old and honourable practice , and deny persons of very-high moral levels their ‘IchchhaMaran’ ?
This type of Honourable & Dignified Death too must be legalized.
There appeared a news-item that the Jain Community has filed a Petition in the Supreme Court of India , that Santhara Death must be treated as legal, ( and, not as a suicide). If that be the case, Prayopaveshan must also be treated on par with Santhara , and treated as Legal. ( Perhaps some NGO might make such a [public-interest-application).
Be that as it may, the fact remains that such willful choosing of Death is of the highest Moral Order. And, it ought to be recognized as such.
Suicide is ,however, not an honourable death. It is therefore outside the purview of the present discussion. In any case, it is illegal.
Above, we have discussed FOUR catagories of persons , in connection with ‘Honourable Death’ , (‘DayaMaran’ or ‘IchchhaMaran’ ).
None of the Four is Immoral ; and all FOUR ought to be made legal.
In any event, ‘Passive-Euthanasia’ ( दयामरण ) must be made legal immediately. We owe that much to our suffering-fellow-citizens.
I appeal to every citizen all this, not only as an educated , serious-thinking , ‘Vicharvaan’, ‘Buddhiwadi’ Senior-Citizen, but also one who has watched the demise of a very close family member, my wife Dr. Snehalata, from very close quarters. Even during the last-phases of terminal-illness, she, a social scientist, was intellectually discussing Euthanasia with the Doctor. She whole-hearted supported ‘Ichchha-Maran’. So that makes two of us supporting ‘Ichchha-Maran’.
We wish everybody the choice of a ‘Honourable-Death’.
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– Subhash S. Naik .
Santacruz ( West), Mumbai .
Ph-Res- (022)-26105365. M- (0)-9869002126. eMail : firstname.lastname@example.org
website : www.subhassnaik.com, www.snehalatanaik.com.