at long last

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Mar 2018 11:19:15

FINALLY, the honourable Supreme Court has ruled that every person has a right to die with dignity, just as he -- or she -- has the right to live with dignity. So, the long-pending issue of euthanasia has been decided by a five-member Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by none other than Chief Justice Mr. Dipak Misra, in favour of allowing a terminally and irreversibly ill person to opt for death with dignity by withdrawal of life-support system or treatment. The honourable judges have also allowed the facility of ‘living will’ by way of which a person can arrange in advance for withdrawal of life support system so that he -- or she -- will meet life’s end in due course without having to suffer in prolonged illness. With this ruling, the Supreme Court has brought to end a debate that had tormented the society for long.

When euthanasia came in public discourse, many doubts were raised by those who opposed it. One of the doubts was that some uncouth elements could use the arrangement to kill somebody purposely to serve some sinister ends. Yet another doubt was whether a person who opted for euthanasia could regret afterwards at the last moment when nothing could be done. In view of these doubts, the honourable Supreme Court has insisted upon the person being in sound mental health before opting either for a ‘living will’ or passive euthanasia. This, of course, could be a doubtful issue in some cases. Yet, the apex court has thought of a few appropriate checks and balances to ensure that no foul play gets into the crucial decision-making. It is true that even after this ruling of the Supreme Court, some issues that the society had not thought off beforehand could crop up. The society and its legal and medical systems will have to sort out those issues from time to time on case basis.

The issue of living with dignity and therefore dying with dignity has often occupied human consciousness. Almost every family has faced situations when some or the other terminally ailing person suffering in helpless pain has asked for termination of life. In most cases, the members of such families have watched in equal helplessness as they could do nothing -- either grant that person’s wish, or see him -- or her -- suffer. To see a dear one suffer like that is also a matter of utter pain for the rest of the family. It was because of these aspects that the popular favour for euthanasia was on the rise.

However, even now, many families would find themselves tormented while facing the issue of terminally and irreversibly ill relatives asking for a death with dignity. Hope is a great emotion and most people would still hope that their suffering relative would emerge from illness out of a miracle. Every mature society has to navigate through such crises, and Indian society, too, would find its way around when it is faced with actual, real-life issues in the future.

For the moment, all thinking people would thank the honourable Supreme Court for having decided in favour of ‘living will’ and ‘passive euthanasia’. The honourable judges have taken a tough call after a prolonged deliberation over years. It is up to the larger society now to ensure that it uses the allowance in a sane and sensible manner and ensures that its terminally and irreversibly ill persons can meet their end with dignity.