Euthanasia: Aruna Shanbaug, and 4 other prominent cases in India where mercy killing was sought

The issue of Euthanasia, mercy killing, has caught legal and public attention in the past in India. India is one such country which allows euthanasia under specific conditions. And today, in a landmark verdict, the top court of India has given legal sanction to passive euthanasia. This permits patients to withdraw medical support if they slip into an irreversible coma. Earlier in 2011, the Supreme Court legalised passive euthanasia by means of the withdrawal of life support to patients in a permanent vegetative state (PVS). This decision was made as a part of the verdict in a case involving Mumbai’s Aruna Shanbaug, who was in a PVS until her death in 2015.

But hers is not the only one in India. Here we look at some of the prominent cases on Passive euthanasia or in simple words, ‘Mercy Killing’. Most of these, however, rejected.

Aruna Shanbaug case

Aruna Shanbaug was working as a nurse at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM). In 1973, she was strangled with a chain and sodomised by a sweeper. The attack left her deprived of oxygen which later left her in a vegetative state till she died. She was treated in KEM since the incident and kept alive by feeding tube. She remains in coma for over 37 years and her case attracted wide public attention in India. On behalf of Aruna, her friend Pinki Virani filed a petition arguing the “continued existence of Aruna is in violation of her right to live in dignity”. But the top court in 2011 rejected the plea and also issued a set of broad guidelines legalising passive euthanasia in India.

Mr Narayan and Mrs Iravati Lavate, Mumbai

An elderly couple from Thakurdwar, near Charni Road, Mumbai, wrote to President’s office, seeking permission for ‘active euthanasia”. Mrs Lavate, a retired school principal and her husband, a former govt employee have no major medical problems. But the fear of falling terminally ill and of not being able to contribute to the society made them write to President seeking permission of mercy killing.

Anamika Mishra

Women from Kanpur wrote to PM Narendra Modi seeking euthanasia for her daughter Anamika Mishra who is suffering from Muscular Dystrophy Disease. Her father lost his life because of the disease. And now, because of this disese and poor financial condition, her mother had asked for euthanasia for her daughter.

Dennis Kumar, Tamil Nadu

Dennis Kumar from Kanyakumari district asked permission from the district collector to grant euthanasia for his infant son who is suffering from an unknown disease since birth. Unable to bear the expenses for his treatment or see his son’s suffering, Kumar asked permission to give euthanasia, which would relieve both his son and him of their adversity. However, the court rejected the plea in 2008.

Jeet Narayan of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh

In 2008, Jeet Narayan pleaded for euthanasia for his four sons, Durgesh (22), Sarvesh (18), Brijesh (13) and Sushil (10) – all crippled and paralysed below the neck. Narayan wrote to the president of India, who later rejected his plea.

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