A Forty Two Year Long Death: A Case for Euthanasia

By Sudha Dixit

Aruna Saunbhag died. Did I say ‘she died’? Was she alive? Was she living? No! She had been dying for past 42 years – from 1973 to be precise – in instalments.

 Aruna, then 25, was sexually assaulted by a sweeper, Sohanlal Bartha Walmiki on Nov. 27, 1973. He tried to rape her and assault her. He was convicted only for seven years and was freed thereafter. He is still working as sweeper in a hospital. Aruna, on the other hand, remained comatose, kept artificially alive, on ventilator, for 38 years, without ever waking up. Who got punished for life?

 In January 2011 journalist cum activist Pinky Virani moved SC seeking mercy killing, which was turned down. Aruna continued living in pain, in a pathetic vegetable state until the end. Finally Death took mercy and freed her from cage of life of pitiable condition.

  Why was she denied a dignified death earlier? What was the purpose of prolonging her living death indefinitely? I, and I am sure nobody, would like to be in a hapless, immobile condition even for 42 days, leave aside years. Frankly, more than 10 years in bed, not even in coma, would make me yearn for death. Who would like to lose precious, youthful years in bed or on ventilator and come out of it as an old, wrinkled and totally wasted person? Definitely I would not, and I believe many more would agree with me.

 I did not ask to be born, but I did. I came into this world involuntarily. So I have a right to live & live with dignity. I would never want to be totally dependent on someone else to feed  me, clothe  me or  do  my  potty  business, either in conscious or unconscious state. I shudder when I see people suffering from Alzheimer’s. You can live without a limb, without eyes or so. You can take any ailment as a challenge, as long as you have a thinking brain or a will to live. But a vegetative condition, a comatose state, a sort of brainless existence? Where does it leave you? Nowhere! Sometimes, even when you  have thinking  capacity but  there  is pain – intense  pain – unbearable  pain, without  any  hope  of  cure, you may  lose the  will to live. The relief would come through death.

 People commit suicide in a moment of impulse that can be termed as cowardice or mistake; but when you willfully, consciously and determinedly take a decision to end your life (for a valid reason) and ask a pertinent authority i.e. Govt./doctor/friends to do it for you, it needs a sympathetic & serious consideration.

 Nobody wants to die. Those who out of impulse try to hang, burn or drown themselves, start struggling and yearning to be saved. Only a person, devoid of any hope or purpose in life (for whatever reason) would wish to end his/her life and here is where mercy killing comes in. Euthanasia or mercy killing should be legalized   and practiced in valid and genuine cases. A person must have a right over his life for life should be lived in a meaningful and dignified manner. Attempt to suicide has been decriminalized because experts have found insecurity not crime behind such attempts. Insecurity could be imaginary or it could weakness in the concerned person. That can be rectified by proper consultation and psychiatric help. Where there is no possible rectification, we cannot let a person suffer. The argument against euthanasia is that it can be misused by selfish & unethical people. Well, which law cannot be or being misused? Vigilance is required everywhere. Denying death to the deserving will not make anyone noble. Some cases do require mercy even in form of killing. The torture, the pain, the waste Aruna Shanbhaug had gone through was worth it all, and nobody else deserves that too. There is a Sheir (couplet) in Hindi that describes the hopeless & pitiable condition one has reached

                        Main apne aap se hara hua sipahi hoon

                      Main agar zahar na peeta to mur gaya hota

I am a self – defeated soldier. Had I not have taken the poison I would have died

About The Author:  Sudha Dixit is from Lucknow and studied at Aligarh Muslim Univ., Lucknow Univ. and Banaras Hindu University. She currently resides in Bangalore. She writes articles, poems in both Hindi & English. Her hobbies include painting and reading.

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