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Today is Aruna Shanbaug s first death anniversary
A year after Aruna Shanbaug passed away in ward no.4 of civic-run KEM Hospital in Mumbai after spending 42 long years in a vegetative state, the Union Ministry finally came up with a draft bill on passive euthanasia recently and has even called for comments from the public via emails before June 19, 2016. Over the last few years, Shanbaug has become the face of the euthanasia debate and patients rights in India and she s also seen as the inspiration behind the draft bill.
Shanbaug, who worked as a nurse, was brutally sodomised and choked with a dog-chain by a ward boy in the basement of the hospital in 1973. The attack cut off the oxygen supply to her brain and resulted in partial blindness and at the age of 25, she was left to languish in a semi-coma state without any friends or family members to look after her. Since then, she was taken care of by the nurses of the hospital along with activist and author Pinki Virani until she finally succumbed to pneumonia on May 18, 2015. Click here to read Aruna Shanbaug's story.
Virani, a National award winning author of the book Aruna s Story: The True Story Of A Rape & Its Aftermath , was one of the first people to respond to the to the draft bill on passive euthanasia by writing a personal plea to Dr J P Nadda, the Union Health Minister.
In her four page long letter to Dr Nadda, Virani has requested that the Passive Euthanasia Law should be renamed as The Aruna Act (Terminally-Ill Patient Protection in Passive Euthanasia).
'A woman so wronged, who died so broken, a human being who received no justice at all can her anguish at least be validated with the Law, which she has started, in her name as Aruna s Act, asks Virani, who also questioned a clause in the draft bill. She plans on sending a detailed and section-by-section suggestions on the Passive Euthanasia Law to Dr Nadda and his IAS officers on Aruna s birthday which falls on June 1.
Her first (legal) death anniversary is today but she died as a living, breathing human being on the night of November 27, 1973 itself, says Virani.
In 2009, after Aruna spent more than 36 years in a semi-coma state, Pinki Virani approached the Supreme Court (SC) of India to file a euthanasia petition to decrease Aruna s feeds systematically as per international practices in passive euthanasia. While her plea was dismissed, in 2011, the SC allowed passive euthanasia but ruled against active euthanasia , where a lethal injection is administered to end lives of patients with terminal illness.
Euthanasia law sets up traumatised parents against their own children
The noted activist and author of three other best-selling books questioned Dr Nadda about a clause in the draft bill on passive euthanasia where only patients who are 16 years or older can decide whether they want to opt for passive euthanasia or not. This is applicable only for terminally ill patients for whom chances of survival is possible only by life saving drugs or medicines.
In her letter she says, Can a Bill imply that a 16-year-old take his parents to court, that too from his death-bed? Untimely death can set in at any age. The choice to choose Passive Euthanasia or not, because choice is part of the Law -- is so deeply personal, so traumatic (and yet so guilt-releasing because it will free the loved one s suffering) that a State must step back after systemising the Act.
The National award winning author further pointed out that a clause should be added where the Passive Euthanasia Law should only be practiced upon patients permanently residing in India. 'We cannot allow ourselves to be treated like a euthanasia-destination, the way we have been for surrogacy,' she stated. Here is a doctor's opinion on how euthanasia offers patients the right to a dignified death.
The draft bill on passive euthanasia was made back in 2000. However, the government decided against going ahead with it and it was only in 2011 when the Supreme Court laid down guidelines for passive euthanasia.
If you have an opinion or any comments about passive euthanasia, you can write to the Ministry at email@example.com. You must send your comments before the 19th of June, 2016. You can read all the provisions of the bill here.
Image Source: Pinki Virani
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