I remember the movie so well. I guess I saw it sometime in the early 80’s. And now the renewed interest in Euthanasia triggered by the Court ruling on a petition to assist mercy killing, begs that I get the movie DVD and see it all over again.
That was a memorable movie “Whose Life Is It Anyway”, with Richard Dreufus in the main role of a sculptor who is consigned to the hospital bed as a quadriplegic, paralyzed down below the neck, after a car crash. He eventually wins the case for his right to extinguish his life.
The life of Aruna Shanbaug is no life for the past 37 years. One has to look at assisted dying without the prejudice and emotions attached, and necessarily sans the antiquated philosophy camouflaged as ethics, incited by religious conditioning. The court made an admirably enlightened observation in the ruling on the mercy killing petition that a carte blanche acceptance of Euthanasia on the statute would be dangerous in the society we now live. It said that the ethical values are abysmal that the law will be misused by the unscrupulous society. I liked that comment. When someone introspects and tells that indeed we are mean. It is refreshingly in contrast to the hyped moral and ethical values of the society that many often trumpet.
Disconcerting and ridiculous is the reaction of the medical staff of the KEM hospital where the unfortunate woman has been confined as a piece of vegetable. Though the medical staff have providentially taken care of the quadriplegic and orphaned woman, their sloganeering in praise of a long life for the crippled woman and death to the petitioner who sake the court ruling to accept euthanasia was conceited and bizarre. The very same folk who braved and demand their right to take care of Aruna Shanbaug until her natural demise was crying for the blood of the petitioner. Is this hypocrisy, illogical passion?
Euthanasia must be legalized and with sufficient riders that will ensure the law is not and never misused and arrogated.. The anachronism in our criminal law is the section 309 which punishes attempted suicide. Perhaps the gentry who demand capital punishment as retributive justice may even think of sending to the gallows a person who killed himself. The British did that on the corpses of the Diwan of Travancore, Velu Thampi and Kunjali Maraikar, the Admiral of the Zamorin of Kozhikode. They killed themselves before they could be captured and in fury the British hung their dead body on lamp posts. Can we term those suicides as cowardly acts and indulgence of sick minds? Apart from the psychological factors that may push a person into the extreme ground for suicide, I see it as violation of fundamental right if one is prosecuted for deciding enough is enough in this world. If one does not have the right over one’s life, is that not against the very foundation that ensures fundamental rights? Similarly if a person who is absolutely perfect in his bearings decides that he has had enough of agony and suffering from the terminal disease he is afflicted decides to seek assisted euthanasia, why not?
What right do we have to say that one has to suffer and wait till a natural factor consumes life? It is cruelty and unethical. As for Aruna Shanbaug who has spent the last 37 years as brain dead, it is travesty of justice for her. “We will not let go her until natural death intervenes”, says the staff of KEM hospital. A group of hospital staff who love life so much in the same breath shout death for the petitioner.
The bottom line is if we cannot play God and alleviate the hardship why secure that the sufferer suffers till the day natural cause intervenes? All the more in cases as special as this?
It is crocodile tears of a society, moral outrage of a society that is awash with false and archaic notions, that deny mercy killing. Euthanasia must be legal. It is for the courts and the legislature to think and devise riders that will ensure the act is out of ethical considerations only.
A society driven by edicts of faith, still consign the dead to the funeral pyre or dump in pits in back yards of churches and temples instead of donating the cadaver to medical dissection, and thereby enhance the value of learning and opening new realms in human physiology for posterity; a society that still desist from donating harvestable organs after death, should not cry against the idea of Euthanasia. Legalising Euthanasia will be a right step forward.Help people live with dignity if that is impossible let them die with dignity.