I have always felt that selective use of Euthanasia (mercy killing) is something that the human society should seriously think about. Several human rights activists and other members of the global intelligentsia have been strongly opposing the idea of Euthanasia, and I appreciate their views. However, a couple of incidents that I have read/heard about have convinced me about the necessity of selective Euthanasia.
Just recently I read in “The Times of India” (India’s largest English language daily)about the painful experience of Manjunath Kalmani. Manjunath is an Indian software professional who went to work in the USA. He was approaching a successful career when in 2002 he met with a major car accident, that left him paralyzed neck down. Even his speech was highly affected, and he was dependent on a machine even for breathing. He stayed in this condition in US hospital for 6 years, with nobody from his family beside him. And why did nobody from his family bother to visit him in the USA? Because they could neither afford a visit to America nor could bear his treatment cost.
Anyway, the US government was kind enough to continue with his treatment for 6 years. But ultimately his Visa expired, and now the US government has sent him back to India. It was just the other day that “The Times of India” carried a touching and sensational story on his plight, bringing the matter into public notice. This resulted in promises of financial and other helps from various people, bringing some respite for this hapless techie. And now even his family has come forward to accept him back.
This shocking and painful story has made several people to come up with various comments and interpretations, based on their diverse analysis of the incident. Some people have criticized Manjunath’s family, which had simply deserted their own child. Some people feel that since the Indian government benefits a lot from the foreign exchanges sent by the NRIs (Non Resident Indians), therefore it is the duty and responsibility of the Indian government to extend helping hand when any of those NRIs are in trouble.
However, I will like to analyze the incident from a different angle. My question is, does not this incident highlight the necessity of Euthanasia? Just think of it. For six years a person is lying on his bed just like a vegetable, with absolutely no sensation neck down. He is dependent on other people for every mundane activity. He needs to be fed, bathed, clothed. He needs other peoples’ help to wash his stool, and even when he needs to urinate. In a nutshell, he is completely dependent on the mercy of other people. Imagine yourself in such a condition for just one year, and you may have some idea about the tremendous mental trauma and plight that Manjunath has gone through (and is still going through).
And please remember that is it not an exceptional case. We all know that there are numerous such cases across the world, with people leading lives confined to their beds after meeting with devastating accidents, diseases, etc. These people are leading lives that are worse than one can imagine in Hell, and are praying to God every moment for a quick death. Do we have any right to keep them alive, thus prolonging their tremendous sufferings? Or is it better to relieve them from their sufferings through painless killing, ofcourse when we are sure that there is no hope for any improvement?
I know that legalization of Euthanasia may lead to some negative developments as well. For example, a depressed or heartbroken person, who is frustrated with his life and is planning to commit suicide, may take the help of Euthanasia to end his life. It can even be used by people for committing murders, like causing the death of an uncle/cousin, etc. for grabbing a share of family fortunes. There can be several other misuses of Euthanasia, as well.
However, the concerned authorities can always take suitable steps to minimize the misuses of Euthanasia, by formulating certain guidelines. For example, rules can be made that a person can be granted Euthanasia precisely when he is going through severe physical suffering, and he cannot have Euthanasia when he has any other type of sufferings, like mental shock, trauma, depression, frustration, social humiliation, etc. In fact, rules can be made to strictly prohibit application of Euthanasia in the cases of victims of mental plight, no matter how much severe the plight is.
And steps should also be taken to properly define those physical sufferings that will legally justify Euthanasia. For example, rules can be made that a person can be granted Euthanasia only when he has become permanently bed ridden (due to paralysis, etc.), with no sensation in major parts of his body, and with little or no possibility for any improvement. It may be stipulated that physical problems that do not necessarily confine somebody to bed, like loss of hands or feet, will not legally justify the application of Euthanasia.
Moreover, rules must be made that in case there is any application of Euthanasia, then prior permission must be taken from a group of experts (from Medical, Legal and Ethical domains), and even the conduction of Euthanasia must also take place under their supervision.
I doubt whether any person can deny this fact that there are at least some cases where Euthanasia is virtually a must. While a huge number of people oppose Euthanasia purely from ethical angle, there are many who oppose it out of this fear that it may be misused. What I feel is that government of every country has a number of experts who know how to prevent misuse of Euthanasia. It is quite natural that any law can be misused. It becomes the responsibility of the government to ensure that no law can be misused by anybody. A government cannot refrain from introducing a law – when it is evident that its selective use is a must – simply because there is a strong possibility for its misuse.