Supreme Court Makes Verdict in Aruna Shanbaug’s Case, Allows Passive Euthanasia

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Supreme Court Makes Verdict in Aruna Shanbaug’s Case, Allows Passive Euthanasia

Supreme court on Friday in a landmark verdict, allowed passive euthanasia regarding the PIL filed by the author and journalist Pinki Virani in Aruna Shanbaug’s case, saying a person with no will to live shouldn’t suffer in a comatose state. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra said passive euthanasia and advance living will are “permissible”.

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Who was Aruna Shanbaug?

Aruna Shanbaug was a nurse in King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM), Parel, Mumbai who was raped by a ward boy, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki in the same hospital in 1973, and had been in coma for 4o years after which she died on 18 May 2015, at the age of 66, due to pneumonia.

Aruna was sexually assaulted by a ward boy, Sohanlal who worked on contract with the KEM hospital, on the night of November 27, 1973, while she was changing clothes in the hospital basement. He choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her. The asphyxiation cut off oxygen to her brain, resulting in brain stem contusion injury, cervical cord injury, and cortical blindness.

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After the brutal assault, Shanbaug was admitted to the same hospital. For 42 years, she was in the same Ward 4 in a comatose state. Following the incident, the nurses in Mumbai went on strike, demanding improved condition for Shanbaug at the hospital and better working conditions for themselves.

On January 24, 2011, Supreme court responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by Pinki Virani. However, it rejected the petition on March 7, 2011. The nurses and other hospital staffers criticized Pinki and accused her of only trying o make money out of Aruna’s case.

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What is Euthanasia?

Euthanasia refers to the practice of ending one’s life due to extreme pain and suffering. There are different laws for euthanasia in different countries. It can be categorized into voluntary, non-voluntary (patient’s consent unavailable) and involuntary (without asking consent or against the patient’s will).

While voluntary euthanasia is considered legal in some countries, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia is illegal in all countries. As of March 2018, human euthanasia is legal in Netherlands, Colombia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada and India.

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Dr Avinash Supe, Dean of KEM is happy with the Supreme court verdict, saying that passive euthanasia is the demand of the society. He said, “The verdict is useful for the people who are at the end stage and do not want ventilator support. The verdict will help them in taking appropriate decision. ‘Living will’ of the patient will also help the family to follow the patient’s will.”

Dr Supe, however, expressed concern about misuse of the verdict. He further added, “There should not be a misuse of passive euthanasia for treating a patient with the worst health condition or by their family to take away property.”

Published by Shruti Kumari on 10 Mar 2018