What is the meaning of the term |
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What is the meaning of the term
Dr KK Aggarwal & Advocate Ira Gupta,  13 April 2019
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Euthanasia is basically an intentional premature termination of another person‘s life either by direct intervention (active euthanasia) or by withholding life-prolonging measures and resources (passive euthanasia) either at the express or implied request of that person (voluntary euthanasia) or in the absence of such approval/consent (non-voluntary euthanasia).

In the matter titled as “Common Cause versus Union of India, 2018 (5) SCC 1 passed by the Hon’ble Constitution Bench of 4 Judges of the Supreme Court of India,the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sikri has defined euthanasia as:


“12) The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘euthanasia’ as ‘the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma’. The word appears to have come into usage in the early 17 th century and was used in the sense of ‘easy death’. The term is derived from the Greek ‘euthanatos’, with ‘eu’ meaning well, and ‘thanatos’ meaning death. In ancient Greece and Rome, citizens were entitled to a good death to end the suffering of a terminal illness. To that end, the City Magistrates of Athens kept a supply of poison to help the dying ‘drink the hemlock’10.


13) The above Greek definition of euthanasia apart, it is a loaded term. People have been grappling with it for ages. Devised for service in a rhetoric of persuasion, the term ‘euthanasia’ has no generally accepted and philosophically warranted core meaning. It is also defined as: killing at the request of the person killed. That is how the Dutch medical personnel and civil authorities define euthanasia. In Nazi discourse, euthanasia was any killing carried out by medical means or medically qualified personnel, 10 Michael Manning, Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide (Paulist Press, 1998).  whether intended for the termination of suffering and/or of the burden or indignity of a life not worth living (Lebensunwertes Leben), or for some more evidently public benefit such as eugenics (racial purity and hygiene), Lebensraum (living space for Germans), and/or minimizing the waste of resources on ‘useless mouths’. Understandably, in today’s modern democracies these Nazi ideas and practices cannot be countenanced. Racist eugenics are condemned, though one comes across discreet allusions to the burden and futility of sustaining the severely mentally handicapped. The popular conception which is widely accepted is that some sorts of life are not worth living; life in such a state demeans the patient’s dignity, and maintaining it (otherwise than at the patient’s express request) insults that dignity; proper respect for the patient and the patient’s best interests requires that that life be brought to an end. In this thought process, the basic Greek ideology that it signifies ‘an easy and gentle death’ still remains valid. Recognition is to the Human Rights principle that ‘right to life’ encompasses ‘right to die with dignity’.”

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