September 17, 2021

Legal Position of Euthanasia

The term euthanasia is derived from the Greek word in which Eu means “good” and Thanatos means “death” so, euthanasia means good death. When any person ends his life by his own act it called suicide but the end of person life by other through request of the decreased is called euthanasia or mercy killing. Euthanasia basically means that if anyone is suffering from any disease or illness and his not stable for his life and his family members do not support for surviving his life in this case, if he wants to die so his righteous ask for euthanasia.

From birth to death an individual is possessed with different rights and duties. Everyone’s Right to life is protected under article 21 of Indian constitution is mainly deals with protection of life and personal liberty and it is one of the most important right without which no other rights can be enjoyed.

Differentiate between suicide and Euthanasia

Suicide basically means self-killing. When any person ends his life by his own act it called suicide but the end of person life by other through request of the decreased is called euthanasia or mercy killing. Someone will commit a suicide because of depression, frustration of love, does not have good job and failure in examination etc. but in euthanasia, aggrieved person is suffering from any disease or illness so some other person asks for euthanasia because the aggrieved person is incapable or unable to give his consent.

Types of Euthanasia

· Active Euthanasia – it is also called positive euthanasia in this causing intentional death of human being by direct intervention. It basically means end the meaningless and useless life.

· Passive Euthanasia – it is also called negative euthanasia. It is intentionally causing death by not providing food and water. It means disconnecting the artificial life support.

Euthanasia May Be Classified According Consent Into Three Types

· Voluntary Euthanasia – when the person is killed by his own request.

· Nonvoluntary Euthanasia – when the person is not killed by his own consent because person unable to communicate his wish due to in coma or has saviour injury.

Legalization of Euthanasia

Euthanasia relief to patient from extreme pain, diseases and illness, it relives the terminally ill person. The life of a human being is dignified and force to live life with undignified way is against the person’s choice. In many developing or under develop countries has shortage of hospitals and space so the hospital should use for the aggrieved person whose life may be safe by treatment instead of continue the life of those who wants to die. Article 21 of the constitution said live life with dignity person should live life with minimum dignity so the passive as well active Euthanasia should allow. It is not only reliving the unbearable pain but also relieve the relative of patient from mental trauma.

Euthanasia is that if such right will be granted to the terminally ill patients then there will be chances of abusing it.

Euthanasia In Other Countries

Euthanasia is illegal under English law, but the number of countries where it is permitted is growing.

Under the Suicide Act 1961, both euthanasia and assisted suicide are criminal offences in the UK. Euthanasia can result in a murder charge, and assisted suicide by aiding or even counselling somebody in relation to taking their own life is punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment. But there are countries where euthanasia is legal, usually under strict conditions.


Probably the first country that comes to mind in relation to assisted dying, Switzerland allows physician-assisted suicide without a minimum age requirement, diagnosis or symptom state.

However, assisted suicide is deemed illegal if the motivations are “selfish” – for example, if someone assisting the death stands to inherit earlier, or if they don’t want the burden of caring for a sick person.

Euthanasia is not legal in the country.

In 2018, 221 people travelled to the Swiss clinic Dignitas for assisted suicide. Of these, 87 were from Germany, 31 from France and 24 from the UK.

About 1.5% of Swiss deaths are the result of assisted suicide.


Euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal in the Netherlands in cases where someone is experiencing unbearable suffering and there is no chance of it improving. There is no requirement to be terminally ill, and no mandatory waiting period.

Children as young as 12 can request assisted dying, but parental consent is needed for those under 16.

There are various checks that have to be undertaken before assisted dying can be approved. Doctors who are considering allowing assisted dying must consult with at least one other, independent doctor to confirm that the patient meets the necessary criteria.


Belgium allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for those with unbearable suffering and no prospect of improvement. If a patient is not terminally ill, there is a one-month waiting period before euthanasia can be performed.

Belgium has no age restriction for children, but they must have a terminal illness to meet the criteria for approval.


Assisted suicide and euthanasia are both legal in Luxembourg for adults. Patients must have an incurable condition with constant, intolerable suffering and no prospect of improvement.


Canada allows euthanasia and assisted suicide for adults suffering from “grievous and irremediable conditions” whose death is “reasonably foreseeable”. In Quebec, only euthanasia is allowed.


Terminal patients can request voluntary euthanasia in Colombia, and the first such death happened in 2015. An independent committee must approve the request for assisted dying.


The Australian state of Victoria passed voluntary euthanasia laws in November 2017 after 20 years and 50 failed attempts. The Australian Senate had previously repealed the law in 1997 owing to a public backlash against the 1995 law that allowed it.

To qualify for legal approval, you have to be an adult with decision-making capacity, you must be a resident of Victoria, and have intolerable suffering due to an illness that gives you a life expectancy of less than six months, or 12 months if suffering from a neurodegenerative illness.

And a doctor cannot bring up the idea of assisted dying, the patient must raise it first. You have to make three requests to the scheme, including one in writing. You must then be assessed by two experienced doctors, one of whom is a specialist, to determine your eligibility, says The Guardian.

If eligible, you will be prescribed drugs which you must keep in a “locked box” until a time of your choosing. If you can’t administer the fatal drugs yourself, a doctor can administer a lethal injection.


Several states now offer legal assisted dying. Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Montana all have laws or court rulings allowing doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

Doctors can write patients a prescription for the fatal drugs, but a healthcare professional must be present when they are administered.

All of the states require a 15-day waiting period between two oral requests and a two-day waiting period between a final written request and the fulfilling of the prescription.


Palliative sedation, in which someone can ask to be deeply sedated until they die, is permitted in France, but assisted dying is not.

New Zealand

A bill legalising voluntary euthanasia passed its second vote in parliament in June by 70 votes to 50, says the NZ Herald.

However, a third and final reading is still required before the bill is passed into law, and it is far from guaranteed that it will succeed.

For now, both euthanasia and assisted suicide remain illegal.

Case Study: Common Cause (A Registered Society) v. Union of India (Writ Petition Civil Case 215 Of 2015)

Brief Facts

In 2005 a registered NGO filed a PIL in supreme court under article 32 of the Indian constitution to legalise for euthanasia in India. Earlier the register society wrote letter to ministry of law and justice, ministry of health and family welfare with regard to passive euthanasia. The petitioners do not receive any response from government so they filed the PIL. Right to live life with dignity is a fundamental right so it should be also extended to death that die with dignity. Modern technology has given rise to such situation whereby life of the patients is unnecessary prolonged and causing distress and pain to patient and his relatives. Petitioner further talk over for the legalizing living will whereby person undergoing from pain and suffering, where family member can write about to stop the medical treatment.

Judgment of The Case

In this case supreme court said that individual has right to die with dignity as a part of his right to life and personal liberty under article 21 of the constitution. This ruling thus permits the removal of life-support systems for the terminally ill or those in incurable comas. The court also allowed individual to decide against artificial life support and the need arising by creating a living will. In this case court laid down certain principle related to procedure for execution of advance directive and provide some guidelines to give effect to passive euthanasia. In both circumstances where there are advance directives and where there is none exercise the power under article 142 of the constitution and it also stated under vishaka and others v. state of Rajasthan and others. The directive and guidelines have been decided by the court shall remain in force Until and unless parliament does not bring any legislation in this field.

The issue of right to die in under article 21 is first discuss on the case P. Rathinam v. Union of India that section 309 of IPC define attempt to commit suicide so it is constitutionally challenge after that in the case Maruti Shripati v. State of Maharashtra the court said that since fundamental rights have both positive and negative aspects, so that the right to life would include right to die so therefore section 309 of IPC is unconstitutional. After that in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab here the question arises to the constitutionality of section 306 of IPC that is abetment of suicide. Further it relying on the case P. Rathinam in this court said that every fundamental right is not same hence same standard must not apply to them. The court also referred the judgment of Airedale N.H.S v. Anthony Bland in this court distinguish between “right to die” and “right to die with dignity” When a person is in permanent vegetative state or in a terminally ill state, the natural progression of death has already begun and death, without life support technology, is inevitable.

In this case Aruna shanubag is a nurse in KEM hospital, Mumbai and she is got raped brutally and now she has come in vegetative state. The whole staff of hospital take of her a long time but they didn’t see any improvement in her condition. Pinky Virany is a social activist, she filed writ petition for euthanasia to her but She is not liable to file a petition on behalf of her as she is not her next friend. In this case court said that if the patient is conscious and capable to give consent for euthanasia then court will accept his consent but although he is unable to give consent then his next friend would give the consent. The matter would then go to the High Court, where a division bench would be required to constitute a board of three competent doctors to examine the patient.


In the last I conclude that euthanasia should not only be legal but is morally permissible for terminally ill patients. All the person has a right for happy life and some person found their happiness in death. Every person has personal life and rights and there should not be only state involvement. If someone is suffering from any illness or disease so in these cases he can die in his own choice. Death is still going to happen doesn’t matter which way its going on any illness, disease or natural so why not be died with dignity.

Authors: Neha Srivastava and Anu Priya Sharma (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University)


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