Assisted Suicide


    In News

    • Recently, a renowned French filmmaker, Jean-Luc Godard died by assisted suicide.

    More about the news

    • Assisted suicide is allowed by Swiss law under certain conditions. 
      • Physicians and organisations are allowed to provide assistance to suicide within the framework of the law and under the medical codes of ethics, as long as there are no ‘selfish motives.

    About Assisted suicide or euthanasia

    • Medically assisted suicide or euthanasia, under which a person intentionally ends their life with active assistance from others
      • This has long been contentious topics of debate as they involve a complex set of moral, ethical and in some cases, religious questions. 
      • Several European nations, some states in Australia and Colombia in South America allow assisted suicide and euthanasia under certain circumstances.
    • Euthanasia can further be divided into active and passive. 
      • Active Euthanasia: 
        • It is also known as ‘Positive Euthanasia’ or ‘Aggressive Euthanasia’. It refers to causing intentional death of a human being by direct intervention. It is a direct action performed to end useless life and a meaningless existence.
        • For example, by giving lethal doses of a drug or by giving a lethal injection. Active euthanasia is usually a quicker means of causing death and all forms of active euthanasia are illegal.
      • Passive Euthanasia: 
        • It is also known as ‘Negative Euthanasia’ or ‘Non-Aggressive Euthanasia’. It is intentionally causing death by not providing essential, necessary and ordinary care or food and water.
        • It implies discontinuing, withdrawing or removing artificial life support systems.
        • Passive euthanasia is usually slower and more uncomfortable than active. Most forms of voluntary, passive and some instances of non-voluntary, passive euthanasia are legal.

    Does India allow assisted suicide or euthanasia?

    • Living will:
      • In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India legalised passive euthanasia in 2018, stating that it was a matter of ‘living will’. 
        • According to the judgment, an adult in his conscious mind is permitted to refuse medical treatment or voluntarily decide not to take medical treatment to embrace death in a natural way, under certain conditions. 
      • In the judgment, the court laid down a set of guidelines for ‘living will’ and defined passive euthanasia and euthanasia as well.
        • Guidelines for ‘living will’:
          • Guidelines for ‘living will’ were made by terminally ill patients who beforehand know about their chances of slipping into a permanent vegetative state
          • The court specifically stated that the rights of a patient, in such cases, would not fall out of the purview of Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Indian Constitution.
    • Aruna Shanbaug case:
      • While ruling on a petition on behalf of Aruna Shanbaug, the court had allowed passive euthanasia for the nurse who had spent decades in a vegetative state. 
        • Shanbaug had spent in a room at KEM Hospital in Mumbai, after a brutal rape left her in a permanent vegetative state.
      • Shanbaug had become central to debates on the legality of right to die and euthanasia in India.
    • Distinguishing euthanasia from suicide:
      • Justice Lodha in Naresh Maratra Sakhee vs Union of India, observed that, “suicide by its nature is an act of self-killing or self-destruction, an act of terminating one’s own act and without the aid or assistance of any other human agency. 


    • End of Pain: 
      • Euthanasia provides a way to relieve the intolerably extreme pain and suffering of an individual. It relieves the terminally ill people from a lingering death.
    • Respecting Person’s Choice: 
      • The essence of human life is to live a dignified life and to force the person to live in an undignified way is against the person’s choice. Thus, it expresses the choice of a person which is a fundamental principle.
    • Treatment for others: 
      • In many developing and underdeveloped countries like India, there is a lack of funds. There is a shortage of hospital space. So, the energy of doctors and hospital beds can be used for those people whose life can be saved instead of continuing the life of those who want to die. 
    • Dignified Death: 
      • Article 21 of the Indian Constitution clearly provides for living with dignity. A person has a right to live a life with at least minimum dignity and if that standard is falling below that minimum level then a person should be given a right to end his life. 
    • Addressing Mental Agony: 
      • The motive behind this is to help rather than harm. It not only relieves the unbearable pain of a patient but also relieves the relatives of a patient from the mental agony.


    • Medical Ethics: 
      • Medical ethics call for nursing, caregiving and healing and not ending the life of the patient. In the present time, medical science is advancing at a great pace making even the most incurable diseases curable today. Thus, instead of encouraging a patient to end his life, the medical practitioners have to encourage the patients to lead their painful life with strength. 
    • Moral Wrong: 
      • Taking a life is morally and ethically wrong. The value of life can never be undermined.
    • Vulnerable will become more prone to it: 
      • Groups that represent disabled people are against the legalisation of euthanasia on the ground that such groups of vulnerable people would feel obliged to opt for euthanasia as they may see themselves as a burden to society.
    • Suicide v/s Euthanasia:  
      • When suicide is not allowed then euthanasia should also not be allowed. A person commits suicide when he goes into a state of depression and has no hope from the life. Similar is the situation when a person asks for euthanasia. But such a tendency can be lessened by proper care of such patients and showing hope in them. 
    • X-Factor: 
      • Miracles do happen in our society especially when it is a matter of life and death, there are examples of patients coming out of coma after years and we should not forget human life is all about hope.

    Way Ahead

    • There is no doubt that matters of life and death are sensitive ones.
    • It is pertinent to note that legalising euthanasia may have its own repercussions as there is always a scope of misuse and corruption. 
    • However, the only solution for this is to bring proper and informed laws.
    • Thus, the law on legalising euthanasia is a developing one and needs a thorough discussion in order to respect the rights of citizens and balance the interests of the state and society with them. 

    Source: IE