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Understanding Euthanasia- Harkeerat Bhambra

Updated: Nov 23, 2021


Article 21 talks about ‘Right to Life and Personal Liberty’ and provides this right to every individual. Article 21 confers on a person the right to live a dignified life.

This, being a vast area, consists of various other rights, one of which is ‘Right to Die’.


Right to life implies that a human being has the right to live and particularly, to not be killed by another: and the question has always remained, “Whether humans have the right to die?”

Euthanasia is derived from Ancient Greek as, ‘Eu’ being ‘Good’ and ‘Thanos’ being ‘Death’, hence, Right to die or Euthanasia can be derived as the intentional killing by the act or the omission of an act for the benefit of the dependent individual or patient.

Also known as ‘Mercy Killing’, Euthanasia implies the procurement of an individual person’s death, so as to end the pain and suffering, especially of individuals suffering from diseases which cannot be cured.

Euthanasia is of 3 types, according to consent-

a. Voluntary Euthanasia: Voluntary Euthanasia is the mercy killing with the agreement of the patient.

b. Involuntary Euthanasia: Involuntary Euthanasia implies the mercy killing without the prior agreement of the patient.

c. Non Voluntary Euthanasia: Non Voluntary Euthanasia is a type of mercy killing wherein the patient is not in the position to give his/her permission, but is in dire pain.

And of 2 types, according to the means of death-

d. Active Euthanasia: Active Euthanasia means the mercy killing by the commencement of an act.

e. Passive Euthanasia: Passive Euthanasia means the mercy killing via the omission of an act.


There exists a difference between suicide and euthanasia. In suicide, a person voluntarily kills himself/herself by poisoning, stabbing, or by any other way. In suicide, a person intentionally attempts to take his or her life, due to various reasons like depression, frustration, failure etc. However, euthanasia is an act of ending a persons life of suffering caused due to condition(s) of irreversible damage or injury via suspension of medical facilities or injection. In assisted suicide the patient Is in complete control of the process that leads to his death. However euthanasia maybe active or passive.


a. Maruti SripatiDubal v State of Maharashtra: The Hon’ble High Court of Bombay, in the case of Maruti SripatiDubal v State of Maharashtra stated that the Right to Life under Article 21 does include Right to die, and that the Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) stands invalid.

b. P Rathinam v Union of India:The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of P Rathinam v Union of India stated that the penalties for suicide violate the fundamental right under the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, right to life. The court specifically mentioned that the women that commit suicide due to abuse cannot be penalized for such an attempt. This case upheld the decision given under Maruti SripatiDubal v State of Maharashtra, stating that Section 309 stands invalid and is, hence, void.

c. Gian Kaur v State of Punjab: The Hon’ble court in the case of Gian Kaur v State of Punjab, overruled the judgment past in the case of P.Rathinam v Union of India stating that attempt to commit suicide and the commission for abetment of the same does not violate article 14, hence Sections 306 & 309 are constitutionally valid. The Hon’ble Supreme court clearly established that ‘right to die’ with dignity shall not be misunderstood as ‘right to die’ in any unnatural form of death.

d. Aruna Shanbaug v Union of India: Ms Aruna was a junior nurse in King Edward Memorial hospital, Mumbai (1973), where she was sexually assaulted, strangulated and sodomized. The actions caused irreversible injury to the brain, and she was in a persistent vegetative state. In 2010, a social activist cum- journalist put up a plea in the Supreme Court for permitting euthanasia. The Hon’ble Supreme court gave historic judgement. In this case Aruna was denied euthanasia as the court was of the opinion that ending her life is unjustified as per the claims of the doctors reports. The Hon’ble Supreme court allowed for the passive euthanasia, in accordance with order passed by the high court.


The debate of euthanasia being legal or not has been continuing since years. Every individual has the right to live with dignity. Euthanasia is the practice of ending a life of suffering and misery. The debate remains ongoing on the subject matter of allowing active euthanasia and its implications. Euthanasia establishes a way to relieve the individual from the mammoth of sufferings as if they are alive in intolerable pain. Right to die gives us humans the right to evaluate the essence of life, and end it with dignity and zero force. Severe standard guidelines ought to be formulated to apply euthanasia in countries like India.


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