Draft Bill on Euthasia
The Union government has done well to seek public opinion on a draft Bill on ‘passive euthasia’ which involves giving the right to patients to “withhold medical treatment or a life support system for continuance of life”. The word euthasia means the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable disease or an irreversible coma. The word euthasia is derived from the Greek words eu – well + thatos – death. What is very important about opting for euthasia is that it is the patient who has to take the decision—not anyone else. It is a way of emphasizing the fact that a person’s body is the persol property of that person and that no one else has a right to decide on what shall happen to it as long as the person is alive. Euthasia invokes a certain very special freedom—the freedom to decide whether the person concerned must go on extending an unbearable life stemming from an incurable disease or choose not to live any more by withholding medical treatment and/or the life support system. This form of euthasia is often referred to as passive euthasia or even negative euthasia. In any case, it is the patient who has to decide that medical treatment and the existing life support system shall be withdrawn because living has become more painful or pointless than continuing existence. In the case of patients who are in a state of irreversible coma, the decision of passive euthasia has to be taken by the rest of the family or other well-wishers. However desirable the provision for passive euthasia might be, it is a radical initiative for a country like India. In any case, it is a decision where emotion is bound to play a very important part. However, the number of people who believe that the provision for passive euthasia ought to exist even in our country is on the increase. As such, the government’s decision to seek public opinion on the draft Bill, instead of pushing through the required legislation is a very welcome and laudable one.