Mercy-killing loses its ‘face’
66-year-old Aruna, who was one of the comatose patients for the longest duration of time, was put on ventilator support in the ICU of the hospital at Parel after she suffered from a serious bout of pneumonia last week.
Aruna was working as a staff nurse at the KEM hospital when on November 27, 1973, she was raped by ward boy Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki. He had strangled her with a dog chain. The asphyxiation cut off <g data-gr-id="49">oxygen</g> supply to her brain, leaving her in a vegetative state since then.
Sohanlal was caught and <g data-gr-id="36">convicted,</g> and served two concurrent seven-year sentences for assault and robbery, but neither for rape or sexual <g data-gr-id="37">molestation,</g> nor for the alleged “unnatural sexual offence.”
After her brutal assault, Shanbaug had been the special occupant of a room attached <g data-gr-id="45">to ward</g> No 4 on the ground floor of KEM Hospital.She was attended to by nurses all these years who took care of her food and other necessities.
Nearly 38 years after she suffered the brutal assault, the Supreme Court had on January 24, 2011 responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by journalists Pinki Virani, by setting up a medical panel to examine her. Virani had moved the Supreme Court seeking euthanasia for Aruna.
The court turned down the mercy killing petition on March 7, 2011. However, it allowed “passive euthanasia” of withdrawing life support to patients in <g data-gr-id="43">permanently</g> vegetative state (PVS) but rejected outright active euthanasia of ending life through <g data-gr-id="44">administration</g> of lethal substances.
Refusing mercy killing of Aruna, the court had laid a set of tough guidelines under which passive euthanasia can be legalised through <g data-gr-id="39">high</g> court monitored mechanism.
Reacting to the news of her death, Virani said, “Aruna got justice after all these painful years. She has found release and peace.”
“While going, Aruna gave India the landmark passive euthanasia law,” she said. KEM Hospital Dean Dr Avinash Supe said Aruna was recently diagnosed with a pneumatic patch and put on ventilator support. She was diagnosed with the lung infection after a series of diagnostic tests. She was fed through tubes.