Euthanasia - For & Against and Difference Between Active & Passive Euthanasia

Euthanasia – For & Against and Difference Between Active & Passive Euthanasia

Question : The recent death of Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug highlights the importance of re-starting the euthanasia debate. Discuss the points in favour of and against euthanasia and the difference between active and passive euthanasia.


The death of Aruna Shanbaug has re-ignited the euthanasia debate following a landmark 2011 SC ruling which permitted passive euthanasia in special cases

• Several countries such as Netherlands have legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide

• Passive euthanasia is permitted in India, but active euthanasia is not; this is unfair as human beings cannot be made to live in vegetative state for so long

• In the absence of good health infrastructure and adequate hospital care, it is irresponsible to not allow active euthanasia

• The right to die with dignity is important for people who may be in extreme pain on account of chronic and/or incurable diseases

• Assisted death has been supported by many bills in the 21st century and in Western legislatures

• Human beings have the right to decide if they want to live or die

• Hippocratic oath needs to be amended to consider all ethical codes of conduct

• Family needs to be relieved of the responsibility, monetary and emotional for caring for the comatose patient kept alive through artificial means

• Right to die is also part of the individual’s personal liberties


• Euthanasia is morally and ethically wrong

• Palliative care is there for those suffering from chronic diseases so why opt for euthanasia?

• Right to die is actually a feeling of depression which can be clinically treated

• People may misuse euthanasia and kill someone for pecuniary or other gains

• Question of euthanasia such as that provided by the Dutch who declare that a life which is not “liveable” merits assisted suicide arise

• Euthanasia may end up being used against the patient’s will

• No one has the right to decide if another person should die

Difference between active and passive euthanasia

• Active euthanasia is when the doctor deliberately causes the patient to die through administration of a lethal drug

• Passive euthanasia involves discontinuation of medical treatment such as the use of life support machines, disconnection of feeding tube or not giving life extending drug

• Passive euthanasia was applied in the case of rape survivor Aruna Shanbaug who was bed ridden and comatose for 42 years following the assault

Facts and Stats

• Passive euthanasia law is permissible for brain dead persons hooked to life support systems or those in Persistent Vegetative State in India

• Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2002

• Parent, spouse, kin or friend can decide whether to continue life support only after decision has been approved by HC in India

• For dealing with such a plea:

- CJ of HC must create a bench of 2 judges to reach the decision
- 3 reputed doctors must be nominated by the bench
- Copy of doctor’s panel report should be provided to state government and close kin prior to the verdict

• Right to be left to die was introduced in France in 2005

• Oregon was the first US state to legalise assisted suicide

• In Germany and Switzerland, assisted suicide is legal only under certain circumstances
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