Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 18

SOCIOLOGY FINAL DRAFT

ON

EUTHANASIA OR MERCY KILLING

SUBMITTED TO :

Mr.. SANJAY SINGH


PROFESSOR

SUBMITTED BY:

)
ROLL NO. ( )

RMLNLU

B.A. LL.B. (HONS.)

LUCKNOW

1ST SEM.(

Table of contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
INTRODUCTION
FACTS AND ETHICS BEHIND MERCY KILLING

OBJECTIONS TO MERCY KILLING


IF MERCY KILLING BECOMES LEGAL
WHAT IS WRONG WITH MERCY KILLING
MERCY KILLING IN INDIAN SOCIAL CONTEXT
CONCLUSION AND OPINION

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I want to express uncommon much obliged and appreciation to my educator.(Dr.) Sanjay


Singh who gave me the brilliant chance to finalize this glorious research subject " mercy
killing" which has helped me pick up a mess of viewpoint about the development of
present day sociological situation. All through the exploration period, I have been guided
by my educator at whatever point I confronted any obstacles or was in a state of daze not
having the capacity to resolve the intricacies of the subject.
I want to thank my University, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University
,Lucknow, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a novel exploration turned
educational program which without a doubt helps the comprehension of the subject.
I likewise want to thank my guardians, guides and well-wishers who have been a
consistent underpin and have sufficient energy and again looked into my work and have
give their experiences on the matter.

INTRODUCTION

"And can a man his own quietus make


With a bare bodkin?

With daggers, bodkins, bullets, man can make


a bruise or break of exit for his life,
but is that a quietus, 0 tell me, is it quietus?
Surely not so! for how could murder
even self murder,
ever a quietus make?
O let us talk of quiet that we know,
that we can know, the deep and lovely quiet
of a strong heart at peace!"
THE SHIP OF DEATH by D. H. Lawrence

Mercy Killing is a general term used for the medical term EUTHANASIA. The term
Euthanasia Comes from an ancient Greek word meaning 'a good death'. The word has come to
mean the bringing about of an easy and gentle death. When euthanasia is performed following
the request of the person who dies. When euthanasia is performed following the request of the
person who dies, it is voluntary euthanasia. Ending the life of an able patient without their
permission or against their will is involuntary euthanasia. This is murder. Even though euthanasia
is a common topic for general discussion, its real nature and significance are complex and, not
surprisingly, it is therefore often misunderstood. Euthanasia is the intentional taking of the life of
another person, by act or omission, for compassionate motives. It is voluntary when a person has
requested it for him/herself non-voluntary when there has been no request or consent,
and involuntary when it is carried out despite an expressed wish to the contrary. Assisted suicide
occurs when one person supplies the means of self-killing to another, with the intention that they
will be used for that purpose. Euthanasia is a form of homicide even if legalized, it would be
legalized
homicide. Intention is central to the concept. There is no euthanasia unless the death is
intentionally caused by what was done or not done. Thus, some medical actions that are often
labeled passive euthanasia are no form of euthanasia, since the intention to take life is lacking.
These acts include not commencing treatment that would not provide a benefit to the patient,
withdrawing treatment that has been. shown to be ineffective, too burdensome or is unwanted,
and the giving of high doses of pain-killers that may endanger life, when they have been shown
to be necessary
.
All those are part of good medical practice, endorsed by law, when they are properly carried out.
consequences of an act and those that are foreseen but not intended, and some people may then
think there is no distinction, it is nonetheless real, and important to make it. It provides the
ethical justification for some of the necessary actions of doctors in certain complex situations
near the end of life, for example, when appropriately removing medical treatment that has been
shown to be useless. When continuing medical treatment would be futile, that is without any
known predictable benefit, it is both legal and ethical to withhold it or remove it with the
intention of ceasing the needless prolongation of inevitable dying, even though death may be
foreseen as a consequence. (In passing, it can be mentioned that terminally-ill patients are rarely

attached to life-support systems, such as ventilators. The issue ofthe removal of life-support is
separate from euthanasia).It is sometimes said that intention cannot be tested, but there is a
simple test
to apply to clarify the matter of intent when dealing with euthanasia . Ask the question What
would then be done if the patient did not die? If treatment was withdrawn and the patient didnt
die, he or she would then receive all necessary care until eventual natural death. If a lethal
injection didnt work, further doses would be given until the patient died. One risks death and the
other seeks it. Some object to the word killing as applied to euthanasia as emotive, but it is
simply descriptive of what is being proposed, that is, to take the life of. Nobody becomes
emotionally upset when they read that Mr. So and So was killed yesterday when hit by a
speeding car. The term mercy killing is accurate and inoffensive. On the other hand, while
euthanasia is technically the crime of murder, this word may be offensive because its motive is
usually not malicious, but compassionate. Thus, Euthanasia is the process of painlessly helping a
terminally ill person to die. Known also as assisted suicide or mercy killing. Generally,
euthanasia is performed by lethal injection, using the same drugs as those on death row are
executed. Hyppocrates , the father of modern medicine, stated in 400 B.C., "I will give no
deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel". Today, doctors
are still bound by this oath. Like abortion, the debate about assisted suicide is a heated one.
Many argue that quality of life is an issue, while those on the other side believe life must be
preserved at all costs. The arguments from both sides are of both moral and legal ramifications.
.

OBJECTIONS TO MERCY KILLING

The arguments against Mercy killing or Euthanasia are normally classified on


the basis of religious objections and other objections. In the following paragraphs,
some of the objections to mercy killing have been enumerated.

Objections Based On Religion

Many of the arguments made against voluntary euthanasia come from a religious basis. There are
many different religions who oppose this practice. The strongest is the Roman Catholic Church.
Buddhist and Islamic faiths also oppose the euthanasia. Even though many of these religions do
not support euthanasia, there are many ordinary believers and priests who do support this
practice.
Three Basic Arguments

1. The Sanctity of Life.


One of the common arguments against euthanasia from a religious basis is the
'sanctity of life.' Many religions teach that life is simply a gift from God, and that only
He can decide when it is to end. This means that any deliberate killing of an innocent
person is wrong. So many believe that the concept of voluntary euthanasia breaks
that law, even though it is one's own personal choice. This gives people the message
that they do not have the right to make their own choices regarding their life.
2. Intentional Killing is Forbidden.
The argument that intentional killing is forbidden is taken from the 6thCommandment, which
states 'though shall not kill.' Churches translate this Commandment to include voluntary
euthanasia as intentional killing. However, it is important to remember that this Commandment
has never been absolute in its definition. Churches allow for intentional killing in wars, self
defense, and in cases of capital punishment.

3. The Value of Human Suffering.


In Christianity they teach that human suffering is part of God's plan for human beings . They
believe that suffering has spiritual significance, and that it leads to growth. They also think that is
part of the process of redemption. So in short they reject the concept of voluntary euthanasia on
the basis that the extreme suffering that a patient is enduring is all part of God's will.

OTHER OBJECTIONS

Euthanasia would not only be for people who are "terminally ill."There are two problems
here -- the definition of "terminal" and the changes that have already taken place to
extend euthanasia to those who aren't "terminally ill." There are many definitions for the
word "terminal." For example, when he spoke to the National Press Club in 1992, Jack
Kevorkian said that a terminal illness was "any disease that curtails life even for a day."
The co-founder of the Hemlock Society often refers to "terminal old age." Some laws
define "terminal" condition as one from which death will occur in a "relatively short
time." Others state that "terminal" means that death is expected within six months or
less .Even where a specific life expectancy (like six months) is referred to, medical
experts acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to predict the life expectancy of
aparticular patient. Some people diagnosed as terminally ill don't die for years, if at
all,from the diagnosed condition. Increasingly, however, euthanasia activists have
dropped references to terminal illness, replacing them with such phrases as" hopelessly
ill," "desperately ill," "incurably ill," "hopeless condition," and "meaningless life."An
article in the journal, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, described assisted suicide
guidelines for those with a hopeless condition. "Hopeless condition "was defined to
include terminal illness, severe physical or psychological pain, physical or mental
debilitation or deterioration, or a quality of life that is no longer acceptable to the
individual. That means just about anybody who has a suicidal impulse .
. Euthanasia can become a means of health care cost containment Physician-assisted
suicide, if it became widespread, could become a profit enhancing tool for big HMOs.
Drugs used in assisted suicide cost only about $40, but that it could take $40,000 to treat
a patient properly so that they don't want the "choice" of assisted suicide. Perhaps one of
the most important developments inrecent years is the increasing emphasis placed on
health care providers to contain costs. In such a climate, euthanasia certainly could
become a means of cost containment. care for patients. With greater and greater emphasis
being placed on managed care, many doctors are at financial risk when they provide
treatment for their patients. Legalized euthanasia raises the potential for a profoundly
dangerous situation in which doctors could find themselves far better off financially if a
seriously ill or disabled person "chooses" to die rather than receive long-term care.

People for euthanasia say that voluntary euthanasia will not lead to involuntary
euthanasia. They look at things as simply black and white. In real life there would be
millions of situations each year where cases would not fall clearly into either category.
Here is an example
Example 1: an elderly person in a nursing home, who can barely understand a
breakfast menu, is asked to sign a form consenting to be killed. Is this voluntary or
involuntary? Will they be protected by the law? How? Right now the overall
prohibition on killing stands in the way. Once one signature can sign away a person's

life, what can be as strong a protection as the current absolute prohibition on direct
killing? Answer: nothing.

Legalized euthanasia would most likely progress to the stage where people, at a certain
point, would be expected to volunteer to be killed. Think about this: What if your
veterinarian said that your ill dog would be better of "put out of her misery" by being "put
to sleep" and you refused to consent. What would the vet and his assistants think? What
would your friends think? Ten years from now, if a doctor told you your mother's "quality
of life" was not worth living for and asked you, as the closest family member, to approve
a "quick, painless ending of her life" and you refused how would doctors, nurses and
others, conditioned to accept euthanasia as normal and right, treat you and your mother.
Or, what if the approval was sought from your mother, who was depressed by her illness?
Would she have the strength to refuse what everyone in the nursing home "expected"
from seriously ill elderly people? The movement from voluntary to involuntary
euthanasia would be like the movement of abortion from "only for the life or health of the
mother" as was proclaimed by advocates 30 years ago to today's "abortion on demand
even if the baby is half born". Euthanasia people state that abortion is something people
choose -it is not forced on them and that voluntary euthanasia will not be forced on them
either. They are missing the main point - it is not an issue of force - it is an issue of the
way laws against an action can be broadened and expanded once something is declared
legal. You don't need to be against abortion to appreciate the way the laws on abortion
have changed and to see how it could well happen the same way with euthanasia/assisted
suicide as soon as the door is opened to make it legal.
Euthanasia is a rejection of the importance and value of human life.
People who support euthanasia often say that it is already considered
permissible to take human life under some circumstances such as self defense - but
they miss the point that when one kills for self defense they are saving innocent life either their own or someone else's. With euthanasia no one's life is being saved - life
is only taken.
.

FACTS AND ETHICS BEHIND MERCY KILLING

Euthanasia is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as "the action of killing an


individual for reasons considered to be merciful" (469). Here, killing is described as the physical
action where one individual actively kills another. Euthanasia is tolerated in the medical field
under certain circumstances when a patient is suffering profoundly and death is inevitable. The
word "euthanasia" comes from the Greek eu, "good", and thanatos, "death," literally, "good
death"; however, the word "euthanasia" is much more difficult to define. Each person may define
euthanasia differently. Who is to decide whether a death is good or not? Is any form of death
good? All of these questions can be answered differently by each person. It is generally taken
today to mean that act which a health care professional carries out to help his/her patient achieve
a good death. Suicide, self-deliverance, auto-euthanasia, aid-in-dying, assisted suicide -- call
it what you like -- can be justified by the average supporter of the so-called "right to die
movement" for the following reasons: The first reason is that an advanced terminal illness is
causing unbearable suffering to the individual. This suffering is the most common reason to seek
an early end. Second, a grave physical handicap exists that is so restricting that the individual
cannot, even after due care, counseling, and re-training, tolerate such a limited existence. This
handicap is a fairly rare reason for suicide; most impaired people cope remarkably well with
their affliction, but there are some who would, at a certain point, rather die. We say that there is a
second form of suicide; justifiable suicide, that is a rational and planned self-deliverance from a
painful and hopeless disease which will shortly end in death.
The word "suicide" does not sit well in this context but we are stuck with it. Suicide is the taking
of one's own life. Why does the term euthanasia even exist? Is euthanasia not suicide? A
differentiation must be made between the two. Suicide is condoned by society as being
unacceptable but euthanasia is viewed as moral and acceptable in most instances. The term "selfdeliverance" is difficult to understand because the news media is in love with the words "doctorassisted suicide". This is because the news media is dissecting the notion of whether or not
doctors, who are supposed to preserve life, should partake in euthanasia. The media is failing to
look at t he actual issue of euthanasia, but instead, they are looking at the decision of whether or
not doctors should assist in euthanasia. Also, we have to face the fact that the law calls all forms
of self-destruction suicide.

There are ethical guidelines for euthanasia. If these guidelines are met then euthanasia can be
considered acceptable:

1. The person must be a mature adult. This is essential. The exact age will depend on the
individual but the person should not be a minor who would come under quite different laws.
Secondly, the person must have clearly made a considered decision. An individual has the ability

now to indicate this with a living will (which applies only to disconnection of life supports) and
can also, in today's more open and tolerant society, freely discuss the option of euthanasia with
health-care professionals, family, lawyers, etc. The euthanasia must not be carried out at the first
knowledge of a life threatening illness, and reasonable medical help must have been sought to
cure or at least slow down the terminal disease.
2. The doctor should decide whether the ailment is curable and if it is not, he/she should decide
whether the patient will live productively for months or even years to come. If the ailment is not
immediately fatal, will it cause pain and suffering for the rest of the patient's life? How old is the
patient? Will he/she live much longer any way? All these factors should come into play when
deciding whether a patient should be euthanized; however, the doctor's answers to these
questions may differ from those of the patient and his/her family. It is up to the patient's doctor to
decide whether the patient's ailment is indeed curable. The patient should be presented with the
facts. The doctor should tell the patient exactly how it is and not project the false hope that the
patient may recover. With this information, the patient can make an informed decision and feel
that it is the best one.
3 The other consideration is related to religion: does suffering glorify a person? Is suffering, as
related to Jesus Christ's suffering on the cross, a part of the preparation for meeting God? Are
you merely a steward of your life, which is a gift from God, which only He may take away. If
your answers to these questions is yes, then you should not be involved in any form of
euthanasia. Remember that there are millions of atheists, as well as people of differing religions,
and they all have rights ,too. Many Christians who believe in euthanasia justify it by reasoning
that the God whom they worship is loving and tolerant, and would not wish to see them in agony.
They do not see their God as being so vengeful as refusing them the Kingdom of Heaven if they
accelerated the end of their life to avoid prolonged, unbearable suffering. A doctor should not be
allowed to "play God" and decide who should live and who should die. In fact, even the patient
should not be allowed to, but it is the patient's life and he/she has to live it. So, it is only logical
to allow the patient, and no one else, to decide. Another consideration must be that, by ending
one's life before its natural end, is one is depriving oneself of a valuable period of good life? Is
that period of love and companionship with family and friends worth hanging on for? Even the
most determined supporters of euthanasia hang on until the last minute; sometimes too long, and
lose control.

IF MERCY KILLING BECOME LEGAL


Many people support the right of a terminally ill patient to die - but what if the right becomes an
obligation? And what of the potential for abuse by impatient heirs? Should dying patients have
the right to order their doctors not to start or continue medical treatment? Should doctors be
protected from prosecution if they shorten a patient's life expectancy with pain-killing drugs?

Most of us would answer yes to both questions. But does this mean we need a "right to die" law?
Or is there more to the issue than first meets the eye? Public discussion of the treatment of dying
patients often confuses two separate issues. First, is the right of the terminally ill person to be
allowed to die without being subjected to invasive medical procedures? Second, is the question
of whether a dying person should also have the right to hasten his or her own death, and require
the help of doctors and nurses to do so?
PATIENTS RIGHTS:
It is often overlooked that patients have the common law right to refuse any medical treatment. A
doctor who treats a patient against his or her express wishes can be charged with assault. It
would be wise to educate people as to their right to refuse treatment. There is no need to convert
this well established legal principle into legislation. Regardless of the intention of "right to die"
or "aid in dying" laws, they could very easily open the door to active euthanasia. In the present
climate of opinion, it is easy to imagine a doctor giving a lethal dose of pain-killing drug and
then claiming that death was the best way to eliminate physical suffering. If the doctor could also
show that the patient had requested the lethal dosage, the court might well interpret the law in the
doctor's favor. Many do not find the prospect of legal voluntary active euthanasia in any way
alarming. But two things should give us pause. First, as a soon-to-be-published Canadian study
will show, most health care professionals who work with the dying endorse the patient's right to
refuse medical treatment, but oppose legalizing active euthanasia. The professionals recognize
that is pain is controlled, as it can be in virtually all cases, very few terminally ill people ask to
be put to death. Second, experience in Holland tells us that voluntary Euthanasia
can quickly become involuntary euthanasia.
DUTCH EXPERIENCE WITH EUTHANASIA
Holland is widely regarded as one of the world's most civilized countries. Active euthanasia is
legal there, but for the past decade the government has not prosecuted doctors who report having
assisted their patients to commit suicide. A recent Dutch government investigation of euthanasia
has come up with some disturbing findings. In 1990, 1,030 Dutch patients were killed
WITHOUT THEIRCONSENT. And of 22,500 deaths due to withdrawal of life support, 63%
(14,175
patients) were denied medical treatment WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT. Twelve per-cent
(1,701 patients) were mentally competent but were NOT CONSULTED. These findings were
widely publicized before the November 1991 referendum in Washington State and contributed to
the defeat of the proposition to legalize lethal injections and assisted suicide. The Dutch
experience seems to demonstrate that the "right to die" can soon turn into an obligation. This
concept is dangerous, and you could find yourself the victim if Euthanasia becomes legal in
North America. We have all heard and some of us have experienced, moving stories of elderly

people in great pain, unable to perform even the most basic human functions, who have asked to
die, or have perhaps brought about their own deaths. What these stories overlook is that today, in
almost all cases, it is possible to kill pain without killing the patient. When someone's pain is
relieved that person usually wants to go on living. We need to reflect carefully on the
consequences of legalizing active euthanasia. If we enshrine the absolute right to die, will it then
become illegal to intervene to obstruct would-be suicide? Will pharmacists be obligated to sell a
lethal dose of hemlock to anyone who is temporarily depressed?

POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE:

We need to think of the potential for abuse if mercy killing becomes legal. What iif someone
stands to inherit one million dollars when Aunt Gladys dies? Might the heir not find it tempting
to nudge her in the direction of accepting a lethal injection? Or, ifs he didn't get the hint, to make
her miserable enough to want it? If voluntary euthanasia is made legal for "persons of sound
mind" there will inevitably be tremendous pressure to provide it for those who "would request it
if they were able to" - the mentally ill or handicapped, the senile, etc. Finally, despite genuine
compassion for the suffering of dying people, doest here not also lurk in many hearts a less
admirable motive? Few people are so tasteless as to link euthanasia and health care costs in the
same breath, but there is a widespread few that medical care for the elderly costs more than we
can afford. These financial pressures will multiply in the coming years as our population ages.
Many elderly people are already responding to this not-so-subtle message by declaring their
willingness to die when their lives are no longer productive. Their reluctance to be a financial
burden on the young is admirable, but the long term consequences could be brutal. What will
happen to the trust that people still feel toward their doctors if our country follows Holland?
What emotion will elderly or seriously ill patients feel when the nurse approaches them with a
full syringe.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH MAKING MERCY KILLING LEGAL

Many argue that a decision to kill oneself is a private choice about which society has no right to
be concerned. This position assumes that suicide results from competent people making

autonomous, rational decisions to die, and then claims that society has no business "interfering"
with a freely chosen life or death decision that harms no one other than the suicidal individual.
But according to experts who have studied suicide, the basic assumption is wrong .A careful
1974 British study, which involved extensive interviews and examination of medical records,
found that 93 percent of those studied who committed suicide were mentally ill at the time. A
similar St. Louis study, published in1984, found a mental disorder in 94 percent of those who
committed suicide. There is a great body of psychological evidence that those who attempt
suicide are normally ambivalent, that they usually attempt suicide for reasons other than a settled
desire to die, and that they are predominantly the victims of mental disorder.
Still, shouldn't it be the person's own choice?
Almost all of those who attempt suicide do so as a subconscious cry for help, not after a carefully
calculated judgment that death would be better than life. A suicide attempt powerfully calls
attention to one's plight. The humane response is to mobilize psychiatric and social service
resources to address the problems that led the would-be suicide to such an extremity. Typically,
this counseling and assistance is successful. One study of 886 people who were rescued from
attempted suicides found that five years later only 3.84 percent had gone on to kill themselves. A
Swedish study with a 36-year follow-up found only 10.9 percent later killed themselves.
Paradoxically, the prospects for a happy life are often greater for those who attempt suicide, but
are stopped and helped, than for those with similar problems who never attempt suicide. In the
words of academic psychiatrist Dr. Erwin Stengel, "The suicidal attempt is a highly effective
though hazardous way of influencing others and its effects are as a rule ... lasting."In short,
suicidal people should be helped with their problems, not helped to die.
But shouldn't we distinguish between those who are emotionally unbalanced and
those who are making a rational, competent decision?
Psychologist Joseph Richman, writing in the Journal of Suicide and Life- Threatening Behavior,
notes,
As a clinical suicidologist, and therapist who has interviewed or treated over800 suicidal
persons and their families, I have been impressed that those who are suicidal are more like each
other than different, including those who choose "rational suicide". All suicides, including the
"rational," can be an avoidance of or substitute for dealing with basic life-and-death issues. The
suicidal person and significant others usually do not know the reasons for the decision to commit
suicide, but they give themselves reasons. That is why rational suicide is more often rationalized,
based upon reasons that are unknown, unconscious, and a part of social and family system
dynamics

What about those who are terminally ill?


Contrary to the assumptions of many in the public, a scientific study of people with terminal
illness published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that fewer than one in four

expressed a wish to die, and all of those who did had clinically diagnosable depression. As
Richman points out, "Effective psychotherapeutic treatment is possible with the terminally ill,
and only irrational prejudices prevent the greater resort to such measures.'' And suicidologist Dr.
David C. Clark observes that depressive episodes in the seriously ill "are not less responsive to
medication" than depression in others. Indeed, the suicide rate in persons with terminal illness is
only between 2 percent and 4 percent. Compassionate counseling and assistance, such as that
provided in many hospices, together with medical and psychological care, provide a positive
alternative to euthanasia among those who have terminal illness.
What about those in uncontrollable pain?
They are not getting adequate medical care and should be provided up-to-date means of pain
control, not killed. Even Dr. Pieter Admiral, a leader of the successful movement to legalize
direct killing in the Netherlands, has publicly observed that pain is never an adequate
justification for euthanasia in light of current medical technique that can manage pain in virtually
all circumstances Why, then, are there so many personal stories of people in hospitals and
nursing homes having to cope with unbearable pain? Tragically, pain control techniques that
have been perfected at the frontiers of medicine have not become universally known at the
clinical level. What we need is better training in those techniques for health care personnel -- not
the legalization of physician-aided death.
What about those with severe disabilities?
What would it say about our attitude as a society were we to tell those who
have neither terminal illness nor a disability, "You say you want to be killed, but what
you really need is counseling and assistance," but, at the same time, we were to tell
those with disabilities, "We understand why you want to be killed, and we'll let a
doctor kill you"? It would certainly not mean that we were respecting the "choice" of
the person with the disability. Instead, we would be discriminatorily denying suicide
counseling on the basis of disability. We'd be saying to the nondisabled person, "We
care too much about you to let you throw your life away," but to the person with the
disability, "We agree that life with a disability is not worth living."
True respect for the rights of people with disabilities would dictate action to
remove those obstacles -- not "help" in committing suicide.
Most people with disabilities will tell you that it is not so much their physical or
mental impairment itself that makes their lives difficult as it is the conduct of the
nondisabled majority toward them. Denial of access, discrimination in employment,
and an attitude of aversion or pity instead of respect are what make life intolerable.
True respect for the rights of people with disabilities would dictate action to remove
those obstacles -- not "help" in committing suicide.
_ Opponents of legalizing assisting suicide say it will lead to non voluntary

euthanasia.
Absolutely not. As attorney Walter Weber has written in the Journal of Suicide
and Life Threatening Behavior,
Under the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S
Constitution, legislative classifications that restrict constitutional rights are subject to
strict scrutiny and will be struck down unless narrowly tailored to further a compelling
governmental interest. A right to choose death for oneself would also probably extend
to incompetent individuals. A number of lower courts have held that an incompetent
patient does not lose his or her right to consent to termination of life-supporting care
by virtue of his or her incompetency. The "substituted judgment" doctrine authorizes
indeed, requires a substitute decision maker, whether the court or a designated third
party, to decide what the incompetent person would choose, if that person were
competent. Therefore infants, those with mental illness, retarded people, confused or
senile elderly individuals, and other incompetent people would be entitled to have
someone else enforce their right to die.
Thus, if direct killing is legalized on request of a competent person, under court
precedents that have already been set, someone who is not competent could be killed

MERCY KILLING IN THE INDIAN SOCIAL CONTEXT

Having touched upon the controversial aspects of Mercy Killing, let us now move forward to
Indian social context of Mercy Killing. The degenerative muscular dystrophy patient
K Venkatesh , who had sought mercy killing, passed away in Hyderabad on December 17, 2004.
This is the most highlighted case of mercy killing in India. The 25-year-old was on life support
system in Global Hospital. His eyes were donated after his death but no other organ could be
transplanted as the former chess player had been on a ventilator for a long period. His mother
and sister were by his side when the end came. His mother had appealed to the Andhra Pradesh
high court seeking euthanasia to allow her son to donate his organs. The court had earlier
rejected her appeal but on Thursday ordered setting up of a committee to reconsider the matter. A
Communist Party of India Member of Parliament, S Sudhakar made a strong case for legalizing
mercy killings. Referring to 25-year old former chess champion, KVenkatesh, who suffered from
muscular dystrophy, S Sudhakar Reddy said the government must come forward with a
comprehensive Euthanasia Act. Euthanasia isact or practice of ending the life of an individual
suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition. Venkatesh and his mother K Sujatha's
plea that the former's organs be allowed to be harvested had been rejected by the Andhra Pradesh
high court. The court ruled that the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1995, has
no provision to allow individuals to donate organs before they are brain-dead. This issue made
the debate of allow ability or otherwise of mercy killing in India, a controversial issue.

CONCLUSION AND OPINION

The unusual request of a terminally ill person for permission to donate his organs has
triggered an entirely new debate and taken the issue of human organ transplant into an unchartered territory. It has raised the demand for extending organ donation beyond brain
deaths to non-heart beat deaths. The case of K Venkatesh, suffering from Duchenes
Muscular Dystrophy, is unique in two ways. Initially, he and his mother wanted him to be
removed from the ventilator on which he has been surviving for more than a fortnight. It was
nothing but a request for Euthanasia or mercy killing. The alibi they took was that it will
enable him to donate his organs - heart, kidneys and liver - without the organs getting
infected due to his peculiar illness. However, when it was made clear to them by the doctors
and lawyers that Euthanasia was not legally or medically allowed in India, they knocked on
the Andhra Pradesh High Court's door with an appeal to allow even non-brain death cases to
donate their organs. What they had requested to the court was inclusion of non-heart beat
deaths in the Human Organ Transplant Act. The 1995 Act allows harvesting of human organs
only when the donor is brain dead but his heart and other organs are still functional and his
family voluntarily agrees to donate the organs. Counsel Rajender Prasad made this point
before the High Court Bench pointing out that Acts were updated in many other fields
including information and communication technology to meet the new situations and
problems. But, according to me, any such change in the Organ Transplant Act in the present
social milieu will open the doors for exploitation of the poor by the rich. The rich people in
search of organs will bribe the poor in to an early death, even when there is a possibility of
the poor surviving. But the politicians and the policy makers will have to pay their attention
to the issue of non heart beat donations, as it has already been allowed in some developed
countries. The question is why non-heart beat deaths cannot be brought into the purview of
the Act when it can benefit a large number of patients who want to donate their organs to
other needy persons. There are 162 registered patients waiting for kidney transplant in five
corporate hospitals in Hyderabad alone. If any such permission has to be given, the law
should be changed. Even a court cannot do that. It has to be done by the Assembly or
Parliament. But it is not just the question of law. I would here point out even bigger and more
complex social aspects of the problem. Perhaps we do not have the infrastructure to
transplant the organs of every body. For example, if any poor person is dying, a rich person
can approach him, saying, 'Please donate your organs to me, I will pay you.' As long as there
are vulnerable poor people, such laws will only increase exploitation. Unless we end this
disparity in our system, bringing such a law can be dangerous. However, I agree that there
has to be serious debate in the medical fraternity and among the legislators and policy makers
on the issue on inclusion of non-heart beat cases in to the Human Organ Transplant Act. May
be no such case had come to the legislature's or Parliament's note. Now there can be
representation to the legislators by the people or the Medical Council of India to consider
this.

Organ transplant is a relatively new thing for India. If we have to compromise with it, we will
have to meet the changes and challenges. Such a thing is viable only in highly civilized and
developed societies. Given the vast difference between the rich and the poor in our country, if
we bring such a thing today, any rich will buy the poor. With this end note, I would conclude

by saying that though Indian general public is ready to accept Mercy Killing, keeping in view
the opinion of the doctors lobby, and some discussions offered by myself as above, India is
still not in apposition to accept Mercy Killing as Legalized medical tool.