The Dilemma between Right to Choose and Right to Life and Live with Dignity and Personal Liberty: Active Euthanasia

Saubhagya Singla
Christ Deemed to be University, Main Campus, India.

Volume III – Issue I, 2021

Euthanasia, also called mercy killing, act or practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from painful and incurable disease or incapacitating physical disorder or allowing them to die by withholding treatment or withdrawing artificial life-support measures. Because there is no specific provision for it in most legal systems, it is usually regarded as either suicide(if performed by the patient himself) or murder (if performed by another). Physicians may, however, lawfully decide not to prolong life in cases of extreme suffering, and they may administer drugs to relieve pain even if this shortens the patient’s life. In the late 20th century, several European countries had special provisions in their criminal codes for lenient sentencing and the consideration of extenuating circumstances in prosecutions for euthanasia.

The concept of rights is embodying in the idea that man as a free individual is empowered with reason and conscience capable of carrying out moral and free choices. Every human aspires to be treated with dignity, to express and voice out their opinion, to associate with whom they want to, to choose their representatives in the government, to worship and practice their religious beliefs how, when and where they want to.

To endown a man with the right to choose one’s own path of life is the fundamental advantage man has among all the other creatures in the world. This right of choice has been recognized as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, this right was reinforced in the case of CA Thomas V. Union of India. It is also suggested that the value of life as so perceived is lessened not by a decision to refuse treatment, but by the failure to allow a human being the right of choice. A fundamental concept that defines the essence of Article 21 is the right to live with dignity and right to personal liberty. Although right to choose is a subset of the right to life and personal liberty, there has been a long-standing conflict between the right to choose and right to life with respect to active and passive euthanasia.

This paper aims at presenting a liberal idea of the marriage of the two concepts of right to choose and right to life with respect to active and passive euthanasia, also commenting on the various ideologies by jurists on right to die and no right to die. It also aims at representing the right to live out life with dignity and chose when to artificially absolve an individual from the suffering of natural and unavoidable death of individuals on their own terms. This article also addresses the ‘ vitalism ‘ principle which is adopted by the state and how this principle fundamentally fails in paying attention to the truly vulnerable persons at the ‘margins of existence’ who are incapable of ending their lives because of mental incompetence or physical disability are unjustly pre-empted from availing the right to die in its plenary form.

The purpose of this paper will be to provide suggestions on how the law on active euthanasia can be drafted while also addressing the downfalls of this subject. It goes without saying this process is subject to many personal corruptions which have to be addressed by the authority before approving the procedure. This paper only deals with the will of an individual and respecting their decision to end their lives with dignity and not subject them to the an artificially prolonged life.

The following observations and findings are supported through a doctrinal research using well established articles, ratio of different cases, obiter of different justices and the jurisprudence behind the concept of individuals right to choose.

The right holder’s wishes or choice to live or die in a situation of inevitable death and suffering has its moral ups and downs, but as Lord Browne-Wilkinson stated “ …how can it be lawful to allow a patient to die slowly, through painlessly, over a period of weeks from lack of food but unlawful to produce his immediate death by a lethal injection…” the concept of active euthanasia is not killing a man because he wants to die, it is upholding a mans right not to be left to die by suffering to an inevitable end.


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