January 17, 2022

Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in Indian Context


Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is a questionable subject which has as of late caught the enthusiasm of media, public, legislators, and clinical calling. The lawful status of PAS and euthanasia in India lies in the Indian Penal Code, which manages the issues of willful extermination, both dynamic and uninvolved, and furthermore PAS. According to Penal Code 1860, active euthanasia is an offence under Section 302 (punishment for murder) or at least under Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder). The distinction among euthanasia and physician-assisted passing lies in who controls the deadly portion; in willful extermination, this is finished by a specialist or by a third individual, though in doctor helped demise, this is finished by the patient himself.

Different religions and their viewpoints on suicide, PAS, and wilful extermination are talked about. Individuals contend that clinics don’t focus on patients’ desires, particularly when they are experiencing in critical condition, devastating, and non-reacting ailments. This is bound to change with the new laws, which might be implemented if PAS is legalized. This issue is getting applicable to specialists as they have to manage mental limit gives constantly.

Keywords: Culture, euthanasia, India, physician-assisted suicide, religion


Meaning of euthanasia is marginally extraordinary in various nations; in any case, it is commonly characterized as “a purposeful mediation attempted with the express goal of completion a real existence, to diminish immovable affliction.” PAS is the act of furnishing an able patient with a remedy for drug for the patient to use with the essential aim of closure their own life; the patient would have to self-administer the medication, directly or through a machine. [1]Inadequate attention has been given to the cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds underlying the different views on assisted suicide held by various sections of the society. Present literature shows that cultural differences may account for some inequalities related to assisted suicide.

Current Indian position on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia

Ward number four of Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital has been in the news lately for the heart-breaking ordeal of Aruna Shanbaug, a nurse who is living in a vegetative state for the past 37 years after being brutally assaulted by a hospital worker. When the news broke that the Indian Supreme court has turned down a mercy killing petition for Aruna, the nurses caring her at the KEM were joyous to the extent of hugging each other and distributing sweets among other staff members. The Life Site News in 2008 reported the following: “India’s press agencies report that Seema Sood, 37, is now walking again for the first time since 1993, when advanced rheumatoid arthritis left her completely debilitated and horribly deformed all her joints. Two years ago, she petitioned the President of India for ‘mercy killing,’ a plea she is now thankful went unanswered.”[2]

What Indian medical professionals think about physician-assisted suicide?

India is a healthy example of a number of varied cultures, customs, and religions which all have preserved their identities and also mingled with the historic Indian philosophies and rituals. A discussion on PAS at a professional and public level will face a number of complexities such as the moral values of people, how religion and culture will play in the minds of people, whether the intensity of religiosity will overpower type of religion, and so on. There has been limited data published on the perceptions of Indian doctors about euthanasia and PAS.There is a real need to further study the attitudes of Indian doctors, especially psychiatrists, oncologists, palliative care physicians, and geriatricians, toward the concepts of euthanasia and PAS.

The issue of religious diversity and concepts of suicide in major religions in India

Hinduism: According to Hinduism, if a person commits suicide, he or she neither goes to hell nor heaven but remains in the earth as a bad spirit and wanders aimlessly until he or she completes the allotted lifespan. The person then goes to hell only to return back on earth to complete the left “karma.”

Islam: According to Prof Yusuf Al-Qardhawi (Islamic scholar), “Euthanasia or mercy killing is forbidden in Islam for it encompasses a positive role on the part of the physician to end the life of the patient and hasten his death via lethal injection, electric shock, a sharp weapon or any other way. This is an act of killing, and, killing is a major sin and thus forbidden in Islam. ”According to these Quranic verses, most Muslims believe that suicide, attempted suicide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia are all prohibited in Islam.

Christianity: According to the theology of the Catholic Church, death by suicide is considered as a grave or serious sin and this belief is based on another belief that life is God’s property and a gift to this world, and nobody else has the right to destroy it. But the Catechism of Catholic Church says, “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”[3]

Sikhism: The Sikhs believe that the Gurus rejected suicide as nobody has the right to give or take life. Birth and death are the mercy of the creator and thus the belief that there is no place for mercy killing or PAS in Sikhism. The Gurus tackled the problem of sickness and suffering by providing medical relief and alleviation of pain.

Buddhism: For Buddhists, as the first precept is to refrain from the destruction of life, including oneself, suicide is clearly seen as a negative form of action. Buddhism in its various forms affirms that while suicide as self-sacrifice may be appropriate for the person who is an Arhat (spiritual practitioner who has realized certain high stages of attainment), one who has attained enlightenment, it is still very much the exception to the rule.

Jainism: Jainism is one religion that permits suicide with restrictions. Jain Munis and other elderly people have been known to starve themselves to death, although there is no record of application of any other violent means due to heavy insistence on non-violence.


There has always been and will always be arguments among people who will support and be against the idea of euthanasia and PAS. Individuals contend that emergency clinics don’t focus on patients’ desires, particularly when they are experiencing at death’s door, devastating, and non-reacting ailments.. This issue is becoming more and more relevant to the psychiatrists as they need to deal with mental capacity issues all the time. There is a need for empirical research on the topics of perceptions and attitudes concerning euthanasia and PAS in India among large numbers of professionals and general public to draw meaningful conclusions on the need to legalize euthanasia and PAS or not.

For more notes on Human Rights, Click Here.

For law notes, Click Here.


[1] Annals.org

[2] http://ivypanda.com

[3] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Author Details: Jeba Mondal (Presidency University , Bangalore)

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

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