New Delhi: March 07, 2011 – In a keenly-awaited verdict, the Supreme Court today dismissed a plea for mercy killing on behalf of a 60-year-old nurse, living in a vegetative state for the last 37 years in a Mumbai hospital after a brutal sexual assault.
A bench of justice Markandey Katju and justice Gyan Sudha Mishra dismissed the plea filed on behalf of KEM hospital nurse Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, saying that while active euthanasia (mercy killing) was illegal, yet “passive euthanasia” can be permissible in exceptional circumstances.
The bench, however, said since there is no law presently in the country on euthanasia, mercy killing of terminally ill patient “under passive euthanasia doctrine can be resorted to in exceptional cases.”
The apex court said that as per the facts and circumstances of Aruna’s case, medical evidence and other material suggest that the victim need not be subjected to euthanasia.
The court said only the nursing staff of Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital, where Shanbaug is admitted, can make decisions about her.
The court said passive and active euthanasia are illegal in India but passive euthanasia can be permissible in exceptional circumstances.
Active euthnasia is putting a person to death, for example by lethal injection, and passive euthnasia is withdrawal of life support system. Shanbaug is not on life support system.
The bench clarified that until Parliament enacts a law, its judgement on active and passive euthanasia will be in force. (HT)