When death is an inevitable there cannot be such a thing as a right to die. All life on the planet is destined to die. Human beings prefer to live than die. Right to life takes precedence. Besides, as long as the debate/belief on/in ‘God/Creator’ is not settled, no mortal entity can arrogate the right to hasten somebody to death.
The Supreme Court’s Friday ruling in favour of right to die – assisted death, passive euthanasia – smacks of an arrogance that is reserved solely for some unknown force, call it God or Creator, whatever. There cannot be a fundamental right to die so long as there is the fundamental right to life. Untenable not because life and death are seamless but because man cannot play God.
If active euthanasia is capital punishment, passive euthanasia is targeted killing. A 100 gets 1000 bucks, the Grim Reaper must be laughing all the way to the Pearly Gates after Friday, unable to believe its luck!
Of course, the apex court says the right to die can be exercised only with conditions attached and under certain specific circumstances, like the patient being assisted to end his/her life should be irreversibly terminally-ill with a fatal disease and there is no medical breakthrough in the present or future to reverse the irreversible – Death!
Essentially, what it means is that a terminally-ill loved one can be hastened along the way to his Maker by withdrawing artificial life-support systems like the tube connecting his lungs to the oxygen cylinder. They call it passive euthanasia. Active euthanasia is when poison or some other death-dealing agent is deliberately administered to a terminally-ill person even if s/he has not committed a capital crime, the rarest of the rare.
Passive euthanasia can be resorted to only if the patient wished so and the family/doctor who made the final decision to pull the plug had a ‘living will’ to back the targeted killing with. Yes, no matter how you term it, euthanasia is targeted killing. A particular person under particular circumstances are prepared and slotted for killing. Somewhat like preparing the Jauhar Kund for Rani Padmini and her 16,000 to move on to the beyond and unknown before their time because death is riding in on a Khilji horse.
The apex court’s decision has been hailed as a “landmark judgment”, one that ensures “the last vestige of dignity” to death. The retort to that is since when does life owe anything to death? Life, in fact, is so cheap and run of the mill for the majority in India that if anybody owes anything, then it is to life, not all-ending death.
Besides, what is this about “dignity in death” and “last vestige of dignity in death”? There is no such thing as ‘dignity’ in death, any death. Those are just semantics and a false sense of comfort for the living, those who are left behind to mourn death. It is like labelling those who die for the country ‘martyrs’. Sounds good to the ear, uplifting to the human spirit, but still weighs on the heart.
And the judge who wrote that everybody should be allowed to “enter the dark tunnel of death with dignity” was preposterous. How does ‘Your Honour’ know death is a “dark tunnel”? Is he one of those who passed away and then returned with a clear recollection of what death looked like, tunnel or a spacious room? Where does the dark tunnel of death lead to? Surely, some judges can be the death of jokes – laugh at “dark tunnel of death” at your own peril, you’re liable to invite contempt.
As for the much hailed ‘living will’ it is a loaded-gun in the bottom drawer of the desk. The living will can be the death of people who do not want to be hastened on their way to the Maker. It can be used to get at inheritance – money in the bank; the house on the hill or the Papaya garden back in native village. Hell, it can be used to deny a ramp to a wheelchair-bound or avoid hiring a full-time nurse for the “old woman”.
Doctors and hospitals are not against passive euthanasia. Doctors under the Hippocratic Oath know best whether a person is terminally ill or not and if there are medical means to get the personback on his feet. The majority of doctors are keenly aware that their purpose on earth is to save life, not take life.
Hospitals, especially those run by the State, would rather see the terminally ill leave the building. It has to do with beds and doctors and nurses – their numbers, and the turnover of patients needing care, patients with a chance at life. Aruna Shanbaug would not have been kept alive for 40 years if she was not a nurse in the same hospital which chose to keep her alive.
Let’s admit it, the living will has been baked into the cake for those with means to sustain life in private settings. Not everybody in Apna Desh will draw up a living will. The poor cannot afford it and millionaire will seek to extend life till as long as there is big money in the bottomless till. Hope is also a big factor. Patients have beaten full-stop with a semi colon and colon. That’s more to the grammar of life than a punctuation mark.
While on patients, and patience, the use of terms like ‘vegetative/vegetable’ for the ‘coma’ in bed is so out of place, and an insult to the vegetable. For, if you think about it, vegetables remain fresh and with life for varying periods till they are cut and sliced and put to boil and are roasted or fried – assisted on their way to the dinner plate, the big intestine. Sounds somewhat similar to passive euthanasia, doesn’t it? If at all, the comatose are in a state of non-vegetative existence. The compulsive urge to join the league of the progressive in California and Oregon – Switzerland and Denmark – should not be an excuse for targeted killing, to make Common Cause with Death.