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To live or not to live

The Supreme Court has reiterated that the individual patient has the right to die honourably rather than suffer the agony of terminal illness. The government has taken the initiative in decriminalising suicide. But the draft legislation on passive euthanasia ran into hurdles as it contradicted the necessity of living wills, particularly a person’s expressed desire to exit from life. Living will authorises doctors and relatives to euthanize patients in a vegetative state. The government argues however, that living wills may be abused by greedy relatives. No individual is given the right to take the life of another without judicial scrutiny and the decision of a medical board consisting of doctors to recommend the final course. Choosing death is only a personal decision. The state should know the limits of its power in this respect. On the other hand, the decision of the individual not to prolong life in an artificial manner should be a human right. It is a humanitarian choice. But if relatives are given the right, one wonders if they would do it to relieve the patient’s suffering or theirs.

Legislation allowing passive euthanasia has to be backed by living wills. The relatives cannot decide. Doctors should however educate patients and relatives about the implications and effectiveness of life support measures like ventilation to prolong life. But commercialisation of hospitals leads to mindless abuse of ventilation to make money. A dying patient has the right to die honourably without the state and money grabbing hospitals having their say.    

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