Saturday, March 19, 2011

Euthanasia in Aruna's case - Just or Unjust?

I know I am like ages late for writing on this topic. Call it my sheer laziness, or my dislike for writing on similar topics or any other reason, but I have never blogged about such things in the past. This post is a result of a discussion that took place on a friend's blog. Read on to know more if you are interested!

I have been reading about Aruna's case everywhere - Blogs, newspaper, twitter - and more than 90% of the views are that of favouring Euthanasia in her case. The Hon. Supreme Court thinks otherwise though. It rejected Pinki Virani's Petition that asked the court to allow passive euthanasia in Aruna's case by removing the food pipe. I read a post by a friend Pal on her blog. Click here to read it. I posted my views there as comments. Pasting the same here:

Me: do you seriously think her life should be ended by removing the pipe that supplies her food? that too on the basis of a petition filed by a “next” friend? I know when we look at the whole case emotionally, we feel pity, anger and frustration; but for that, can we twist the laws? If law is twisted here, do you know how many people will opt for euthanasia?

Pal: I definitely think so, Neha. Why do you think there will be a huge number of people opting for euthanasia? Nobody wants to die. Everybody wants to live. Only the most desperate will want to think of this.

Me: Let’s not be case specific here. rather let’s have a proper law in place for such a case..euthanasia should be administered, but there has to be a specific law and procedure for the same.

Pal: Yes, then we need to have well structured laws around this. But not legalising this is even worse!

Me: give you a simple example Pal – no matter how sick one is; maybe suffering from aids, cancer or anything, that person tries his level best to live and survive. only we have the right to choose our life and third person can decide that on our behalf. a cancer and aids patient is too going through so much pain, but still there is a hope to live as much as he clearly says that you can’t take away what you can’t give back!

Pal: That is not right, Neha. A person can choose ONLY WHEN HE/SHE IS CAPABLE OF CHOOSING. What about a person who is virtually brain-dead, cannot sit or stand on their own, cannot even speak, cannot eat or drink? Cannot even breathe properly? How do you think he will communicate his desire to live or to die? There are extreme cases and I think our laws need to be robust enough to meet them and take a call on such severe situations.

Me: I know she is living a horrible life, I know she is going through hell at this moment and I even know that her brain cannot think, but taking away her life without her or her family’s consent and that too by removing the feeding pipe – won’t that be a crueler death too?  

Pal: I infact fully support ACTIVE euthanasia itself. Btw, are you serious??? Euthanasia is more cruel than letting her live like a vegetable?? Please don’t take this personally, but I would LIKE TO ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION THAT PINKI VIRANI ASKED ON TV – Would you like to spend even one minute in Aruna’s position? Is it kindness for people (NOT FAMILY) to ‘keep you alive’??? Would it not be more kind to allow you to die in dignity?
And what do you mean by FAMILY? The blood relatives are nowhere in the picture. How rigid can the law be? How blind?!!

Me: we sometimes have to think out of the emotional a lawyer, I completely agree and welcome the supreme court judgment..the person who filed the petition does not have any legal stand to file the case at the first place..then how can court issue an order for euthanasia?

Pal: This is exactly how ridiculous our law is!! As a lawyer, what do you think of the punishment for Sohanlal? That is technically right? Two 7 year sentences, that too running parallely, so he is fully free to go at the end of the 6th year (since he already spent 1 year in prison). LAW IS TECHNICALLY RIGHT HERE. But does it make any sense?? I am sorry, you may be a lawyer and welcome the court’s decision, but as a HUMAN BEING, what do you think?
Me: I may get a few hate replies and thumbs down for this comment, but these are my views purely! I do not intend to hurt anybody’s sentiments!  

Pal: No question of hurting anybody’s sentiments, Neha, we are just discussing something serious here, and each person takes a stand , that’s all. 

Me: one more point – Pinki Virani is the author of the book based on Aruna’s life..the SC would have first determined her stand – next friend is someone who is not a family or relative, but a closely related person for the petitioner..Pinki didn’t even know Aruna before her this state..second, just think from another perspective..if her petition was not rejected, imagine how many reprints her book would have gone for? she has a personal interest in this case..Aruna’s family has not filed the petition, someone else has..from court’s point of view, the euthanasia must not be granted and that’s what the court did!
Pal: Agreed, Aruna’s family has not filed the petition, because they have abandoned her years ago!!
Me: Ah, lawyers have to think beyond emotions you’s difficult, but that’s how it is!  

Pal: No, I don’t agree with that, Neha. Law is meant to facilitate justice and not block it. To state a rule like that is ridiculous, to say the least!!!! What is the use of such laws, that are just words and no common sense?????

Me: Pal, you are too missing the crucial point that the court made – I know she is in a vegetative state, but does she want to die? I know I know you will say that she cannot think, but isn’t it wrong to kill someone even if that person may want to live? And Aruna is not brain-dead. so what if the chances are .00001% but there are chances right? in one of the debates that i saw on TV, everything got stuck there. Right now we may right in our will/wishlist that kill us if we go in such a state; but do we know how do we feel when we are actually in that state? 

no matter how much one says or thinks, no matter what you feel about a case, you cannot decide who has the right to live or die except for that person! and if at that time the person is not in a state to think or decide, you can’t be a godfather or a godmother to that person, period!

About punishing Sohanlal, he has been punished once. I am not saying it was fair or just or ridiculous; but he has been convicted once and as per the law, you cannot convict a person twice for the same offense. Whatever one says or believes, Law is Supreme and we are not above it!


  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to have read stuff and heard stuff on TV (said by the then Dean, Dr Pradnya Pai), that Aruna still expresses pleasure in her own way, by smacking her lips when she has her favourite fish for a meal. That doesnt sound like a brain dead person to me. She supposedly responds to music. That doesnt sound like a brain dead person to me. I think the Supreme court did well in appointing a committee of doctors, and taking into account the observations of the nursing staff. When the State or municipal authorities are not complaining about the cost of maintaining Aruna, what is Ms Virani's standing in all this ?

    In this particular case, demands for legally killing her sound almost Orwellian....

  2. I wanted to state what the previous comment says....Who says she cant think? If she expresses emotions and tears flow through her eyes, there is every reason to believe that she thinks...And like this when you say, "we sometimes have to think out of the emotional box"-Very important.

    I agree with you completely....Right now there is no reason to completely believe that Aruna wants to die, and under such circumstances, and knowing that she may not be brain dead, Euthanasia can be murder.Hail SC decision....

  3. Sorry Neha, but this is ridiculous, to say the least. You are TECHNICALLY CORRECT. But logically, this goes beyound my limited sense and judgement.

    You have still not answered my question - Will you want to live, if you were in her position? A 'yes' or a 'no' please.

    I have nothing more to say on this.

  4. @ Pal, you cannot take life and death decisions on the basis of emotions!

    and I answered your question in the reply I posted on your blog - right now, I may want to die if I go in such a state, but I don't know how I will feel when I AM in such a state! we cannot decide that! and the law CANNOT allow someone to take one's life on the basis of contingencies, emotions and current state which we are ASSUMING that it is painful for her - yes assuming, because you have to be THAT person to know the exact state!

  5. PS: you say 'Law is Supreme and we are not above it!' - WHO MAKES THESE LAWS?

    Should we not use our common sense and judgement and reform laws when they are necessary?

    You think two parallel 7 year punishments for a crime of this magnitude is Ok simply because of a redundant law that HE HAS BEEN CONVICTED ONCE and that is fair?!

    This is exactly where we need young and enthusiastic lawyers to think in a contemporary manner and not quote ad verbatim from the supreme rule book!!!!

  6. @ Pal, Like I mentioned - I am not saying it's a good law or a right law..I am simply saying whatever the law is in force, we have to follow that! yes, laws need to be changed; but untill we have changed the law, we have to follow the existing one! I am a lady and I can imagine the magnitude of a rape, but still I am saying this as I have studie law too! I am not defending my position, I am merely stating what I think is right! we are NOBODY to decide who should live and who should die!

  7. To be and decide as if you are in Aruna's place, according to me is impossible. You cannot imagine what it is to be like just like that. My exzperience, even the simplest cases you think I'd do this and Id do that if I were in his place etc but when one is actually shoved into that position they can do zilch. It is easy to theorize away as a third person but I agree only people closest, and trusted have the right to decide.
    And as you correctly point allowing one case of euthanasia like this will provoke several cases of not-so-real euthanasia used by the wrong people to defend their positions.

  8. I am in sppreciation for Neha & other party as well.

    Neha - because of her way of coming up with matter and approach.
    Great Going Lady. My Best Regards.

    the other party: Some one made a point at least. Even I got more clarity because of discussion.

    Keep Blogging!

  9. Neha,

    Thanks for writing on a difficult subject and starting a debate [it will always be unending though!]

    I agree with Ugich Konitari on this point.

    Given the law and order situation in this country, misuse of euthanasia, if allowed by Courts, is a very strong possibility. Not that family members will be encouraged to kill, but killers will plead euthanasia.

    On a more personal level I must admit that euthanasia decisions were taken for my father [by my mother who was a qualified nurse] and for my mother [by my family]. I am yet to overcome deep sense of guilt!

    When in slightest doubt, as in the case of Aruna, we must decide in favour of life and not euthanasia.

    These are my opinions and observations.



  10. I am working with people who have cerebral palsy. After years of working with them, I learn one important thing, that is to get rid of my definition of 'thinking' and 'brain dead'. I learn to see the person first before anything else. I appreciate this post very much. Humankind have transgressed many laws of nature, and I am not surprised if euthanasia too is justified as being compassionate towards easing people's sufferings. The only problem that most of us facing in this world is not being receptive to the call of the soul, which yearns for compassion and care more than anything else. When we fail to understand the person trapped in that physical body, all the terminologies come in under the banner of 'compassion'. It really irks me to see people using the word 'compassion' to such extreme and they can even rationalize their act. When people talk of euthanasia, I could only say that we have not developed our receptiveness to understand the person behind that body!!

    You are right with your question.....but do we know how do we feel when we are actually in that state?

    I think everyone should read the book, Annie's Coming Out by Rosemary-Crossley. If offers some good insights into love, care, rehabilitation.

  11. Laws are made for people.People are not made for the laws.Whats the use of that law which cannot take care of its ppl

    I would certainly agree with Pal...nice debate :)

  12. As you read my views on the topic at my blog, I think it's an individual's life and only he/she should be allowed to take his own life.

  13. Judgments are passed based on the way law is written.
    Except, Aruna herself, no one knows her suffering. In her place, I would have liked to say good bye, but it is law and God's will which will decide finally.

  14. This is a serious issue and to think or decide the right and wrong is very difficult. I'd never want to imagine myself in that state. Aruna was getting dressed to meet her doctor fiancée when this happened. She was a regular, young girl(just about 25) with similar dreams, hopes and aspirations like anyone else. All of it was cut short and strangled in no time. She didn't deserve this and what Sohanlal got was much less than what he deserved. If one ends (read murder) a person's life, he/she should be hanged for it; but to leave a person to die every moment and day of her life is a bigger crime.

    I don't know about laws and its technicalities, neither do I know about any (or none) of Pinki's vested interests in Aruna's death. She may not have cared for Aruna as the nurses, but she surely has brought her plight in front of the world. I can't say anything for Aruna, but letting Sohanlal walk away and spend a normal life after subjecting a blooming life to wither this way is definitely not acceptable.

  15. hats off for posting this discussion in an unbiased way. I feel that Aruna should live because we cannot 'legally' kill anybody. And the law apparatus in India is so weak that if they legalise euthanasia, people will somehow find a way to murder people with it and the courts will be flooded with such cases.

  16. If it was me and if i could see my kids ,my family visiting me i would never want to die unless it is a natural death.

  17. very interesting discussion going on here! Let me go catch up on this bit of news article to know more,,,,

  18. We need a special law to regulate such cases.
    it is easy to say i will choose life ,but answer may change when someone faces reality and such situation

  19. Without sufficient medical evidence, it is difficult to comment on her clinical condition. Brain death has definite criteria.

    There are guidelines to me met.
    If euthanasia is permitted by law, there are some possible problems. There will be many powers bestowed on doctors, and there are possibilities of misuse. But there are situations when it seems the procedure can be justified.

    I don’t know from where all this compassion comes from. Aruna has been lying unconscious for long time. Tears do not mean emotions in brain injured persons. We don’t know what she suffers or if she suffers at all. From what I know she has a vegetative existence.

    There are other twists to the tale. The criminal escaped with a sentence of seven years.This woman was sodomized after she was unconscious, and this was concealed from her medical reports, allegedly to protect her. If it were mentioned in the medical report, the criminal would have got more severe punishment. And no one seems to be concerned. The woman suffered all her life and the criminal lives outside comfortably!

  20. it is a grevious issue.....and v need to think seriously about thing is for sure that the criminal shud hav been punishd more severely...but unfortunately....there z nothing like that......n for aruna...we are no one to decide her fate....i had read in an article about euthanasia where a family waz pleading for mercy killing of their daughter.....and court had even allowed but the girl remained alive for 9 more years after the removal of respirator though feeding tube was not miracles can one among us knows aruna'z let the creator decide her fate

  21. am late here and so am not going into technical explanations..... Anthropologically and sociologically i cannot support euthanasia in this case ...

  22. Interesting to see the various viewpoints raised in the comments section, Neha. Thanks for the constructive argument!!!

    I think, to me, what stood out most, was Deb's comment on EUTHANASIA = GUILT. That, I believe, is the crux of why most people do not support this.