Euthanasia: Conflict between Life and Death


The word Euthanasia  is derived from  Greek words “eu”and “thanatos ”which means “good death” or “easy death”,  involves providing deliberate death to terminally ailing patient in order to alleviate such patient of intractable and unbearable pain or suffering”. It is also known as Mercy Killing.

The Northern Territory of Australia was the first country to legalize euthanasia. It did so by passing the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act, 1996. In Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg euthanasia is legal. Switzerland, Germany, Japan and some states in the United States of America permit assisted suicide while in nations like Mexico and Thailand, mercy killing is illegal.

Euthanasia is a matter of debate  across the whole globe owing to its pros and cons.  It is a controversial issue which encompasses the morals, values and beliefs of our society.

In India passive euthanasia is legal, while debate goes on about legalizing active euthanasia.

Types of Euthanasia

Euthanasia can be categorized  into “Active” and “Passive” on the basis how euthanasia is  being done.

Passive Euthanasia

  • Euthanasia is passive when death is caused by turning off the life supporting systems from a terminally ill patient. Deferment of life supporting unit eventually leads to death.
  • This means the doctors are not actively killing anyone; they are simply not saving.
  • Passive euthanasia has legal recognition in India.

Active Euthanasia

  • Active euthanasia involves painlessly putting an individual to death for merciful reasons.
  •  Active euthanasia involves the use of lethal substances and it is where the controversy crop up.
  •  Active euthanasia is a considered as heinous crime all over the world except where permitted by legislation.
  • In India active euthanasia is illegal and a crime under section 302 or at least section 304 IPC.
  • Physician assisted suicide is a crime under section 306 IPC (abetment to suicide).

Broadly, Euthanasia may be classified according to whether a person gives informed consent under the following

(a) Voluntary Euthanasia

Euthanasia done with the expressed desire and consent of the patient it is called voluntary euthanasia. It is primarily concerned with the right to choice of the terminally ill patient who decides to end his or her life,  choice which serves his/her best interest and also that of everyone else connected to him.

(b) Non-Voluntary Euthanasia

A comatose , mentally challenged, young patient and patient with severe brain damage are not mentally competent to make an informed decision about dying.In these cases, it is often the family members, who make the ultimate decision.

(c) Involuntary Euthanasia

Involuntary euthanasia is euthanasia against someone’s wish and is often considered as murder.In this case, the patient has capacity to decide and consent, but does not choose death, and the same is administered.

Different ways of doing Euthanasia

There are various ways for euthanasia. The most popular methods include –

1. Lethal injection – Typically, three drugs are used in lethal injection. An anesthetic such as sodium thiopental or pentobarbital is used to induce unconsciousness, pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) to cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest, and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

2. Asphyxiation – The body is deprived of oxygen, which can result in unconsciousness or death; suffocation.

The most popular gas used is Carbon monoxide (CO), Nerve gases like sarin & tabun etc.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s also known as Dr. death, created a death machine (mercitron, thanatron), in which a person can end his life himself.

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