A celebration of life?
Most of the concerns about the abuse of the law are relevant only if involuntary euthanasia is legalised and not when it is voluntary, says DR. NAGRAJ G. HUILGOL.
There seems to be considerable confusion about euthanasia with the lay people as well as doctors. It was evident while listening to debates on various TV channels in India.
Euthanasia could be voluntary, non-voluntary, involuntary and passive. Patient seeks to die when euthanasia is voluntary; non-voluntary is when a relative seeks euthanasia with appropriate power of attorney. Involuntary euthanasia is an act of intervention without consent or request by the patient or patient's relatives with a power of attorney. Voluntary euthanasia is the least controversial. Voluntary euthanasia is expression of autonomy of an individual over his or her own body. It is an answer to the clichéd question, ‘whose life is it anyway?'.
There are certain prerequisites to be fulfilled before a request for euthanasia can be made. The conditions are: a patient must voluntarily on his/her own initiative, express the desire to die than suffer. The patient's judgment must not be altered or influenced by illness, medication, social or economic circumstances or depression. The diseases must be terminal, incurable and causing unrelenting suffering. It has to be ensured that the request was done due to lack of adequate resources. Euthanasia should never be linked with organ donation and harvesting for transplants. A set of doctors who are independent of primary care of the patient need to certify that patient is suffering from terminal and incurable illness. An independent psychiatrist should certify that the person is not undergoing severe depression. There should be adequate time for the person to reverse the decision to seek euthanasia after deciding on the same. All these guidelines have ensured that the fear of a slippery slope is far from real.
There are many concerns besides the abuse of the law — the famous slippery slope. The experience of Dutch and Oregon law have dispelled this fear. There is no evidence of abuse of the provision so far. Some other concerns are the abuse of the provision to reduce healthcare cost, the law acting as a dampener to evolve better therapeutic options and eliminate the less privileged or those who lie on the fringes of society. Most of the concerns are relevant if involuntary euthanasia is legalised and not when it is voluntary. Death is only a pregnant pause in the symphony of life. Good death, in fact, is a celebration of life.
The writer is Chief Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai.
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