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Death with dignity

Death with dignity
In a propelling step to improve the underlying conditions of healthcare in the country, the Centre has proposed a move to legalise passive euthanasia, providing relief to patients who are stuck in a condition of irreversible comatose, reliant entirely on the functioning of artificial life support systems. The haunting case of Aruna Shaunbag had shed light on this problematic, when she spent 42-years in coma after a brutal incident of sexual assault had shut down her biological system. Keeping in mind the escalating expenses of maintaining life support and the trauma that families undergo living with a half-dead relative, the Centre has accelerated a move to allow only for passive euthanasia, to discontinue artificial life support systems for individuals who are stuck in a permanent comatose condition, displaying no signs of reversal or coming back to life. This is distinct from active euthanasia, which in fact means to propel death by consuming drugs or medicine that would shorten the life-span. The Centre also said the misuse of this provision would lead to ten years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs one crore. This move comes as a relief for many, yet, there must be strict supervision of hospitals to ensure that they do not mould this move to suit their own conveniences. For instance, there must be a check that correct information is met out to patient families. To continue to accrue income, hospitals may not disclose that a patient is in an irreversible coma, continuing treatment by instilling the false belief that an adequate end may be met. Further, the opposite could also be possible. As a quick fix to shed responsibility off their hands, negligent doctors may refuse to undergo the process of thorough investigation and treatment for patients who are in a critical and difficult condition but may be rescued with the correct delivery of medical treatment. Given the abysmal state of healthcare in our country today, either stands as a strong possibility. While this move is indeed diligent, in the best interest of patients and their families—supervision in its functioning must be practised to ensure that the policy sees the light of the day. The escalating costs of healthcare and the pitiful aspect of forcing life into an almost dead body do not bode well for the patient or the immediate caregivers. Having a loved one in a coma is a most traumatising aspect for families to live with. Passive euthanasia, in this aspect, is a bright step. Yet, hospitals that are now mushrooming across our country are not the most respected spaces. There is rampant corruption and underhand dealing, with illegality taking place on a daily basis. It is shameful how the corruption of both the body and dignity have become a proliferating business. After declaring this policy, the Centre must appoint boards that will severely scrutinise hospitals and maintain a check on their activities. Our lives are traumatic enough; we must at least be able to die with dignity.

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