Every human being wishes to live and experience life’s pleasures till he dies. However, there are situations when a person wishes to end his life through non-natural ways. It is abnormal to end one’s life in an unusual manner. We call it “suicide” when someone takes their own life, but “euthanasia” or “mercy killing” when someone takes the life of a person with the help of others but at the wish of the deceased. Euthanasia is most commonly linked with persons who are terminally ill or have become handicapped and do not want to suffer for the rest of their lives. A severely disabled or terminally sick individual should be able to choose whether or not to live.

Euthanasia or mercy killing is a voluntary acceptance of death. The phrase “dayamaran” refers to euthanasia. When they believe they have fulfilled the goal of their lives, certain people, such as famous saints or heroic figures, embrace ‘echchamaran’ or intentional death. In our country, there are several forms of voluntary deaths such as “sati,” “johars,” “samadhi,” “prayopaveshan,” and so on.

In India Until the case of Aruna Shanbaug[1] and the recent case filed by the NGO Common Cause, where the legality of the issue was re-discussed and on March 9, 2018, in the case of Common Cause (A Registered Society) v. Union of India[2], a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court recognized and gave sanction to passive euthanasia and advance directives. Euthanasia is a contentious issue that touches on our society’s morality, values, and beliefs and has been a hotly discussed topic all across the world. The argument has gained traction as a result of recent developments in the Netherlands and England, where euthanasia has been legalized.


RIGHT TO LIFE: The right to human dignity is protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution; however the right to a dignified death is not[3].

The idea of the Right to die firstly presented itself in the case of the State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Sripati Dubal[4]  . The Court concluded that the right to life protected by Article 21 provides the freedom to die, and as a result, Section 309 of IPC, was declared unconstitutional[5].  This was overturned in the case of Chenna Jagadeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh[6]   where the court summarily rejected the contention that the right to live includes the right to die.   The same has been contended in the case of Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab[7].  

RIGHT TO HUMAN DIGNITY: The right to die is part of the restricted area[8].  The Indian judiciary reaffirmed that rationale to sustain the positions of allowing termination of life in instances when a person who is terminally ill or in a vegetative condition could not be saved by speeding the process of natural death. Therefore, Supreme Court made it plain that the right to die is not covered by the right to life with dignity.

RIGHT TO PRIVACY: The Indian constitution safeguards the right to privacy, however places some restrictions on them due to social boundation.

RIGHT TO HEALTH: the right to health is a component of the right to life. The best interests of patients, withdrawal of life support systems, and physician help in dying have arisen as a result of the notion of the right to health.[9] 

In India, there is currently no legislation to address the issue of incurably terminally ill people requesting a peaceful death by physician-assisted suicide. The necessity for a nuanced yet clear presentation of all sides of this issue is increasingly critical.


Active euthanasia should be legalised in the same way that society has recognised a patient’s right to passive euthanasia. Proponents argue that when a patient’s illness has become too oppressive, only death appears to provide relief. According to one reasoning, if a doctor must choose between facilitating a patient who is beyond saving and one who can be saved, the latter should be preferred. If a person under pressure is unable to make decisions for himself, his interests will be harmed. In that scenario, it will undoubtedly be a denial of his dignity and human rights, since Article 21 clearly states that living with dignity is a basic right. Falling below the minimum standard level of dignity, the person should be given the right to die.

Euthanasia, as said, respects an individual’s right to self-determination and privacy. Interfering with that right can only be justified if it is done to safeguard important social ideals, which is not the case. Euthanasia allows terminally sick people to end their lives sooner than later. It alleviates the mental agony of a patient’s relatives. Its goal is selfless and beneficent, as it is an act of painlessly putting people who are suffering, to death. As a result, the goal is to help rather than hurt.


The patient does not make the decision to seek euthanasia unilaterally. As a result, it’s likely that the patient is under pressure and decides to take such grave measures as ending his life. The pressure is not physical; rather, it is economical, moral, and psychological, which is far more intense. And the patient feeling like a burden on them eventually succumbs to it.

A fundamental dilemma arises, who could prove differently if a person kills and claims that he acted out of compassion for the terminally ill? Decisions made by doctors or families are incredibly risky, it’s not always obvious if relatives and doctors are acting in the best interests of the patient.

Various religious groups in India opposing Euthanasia, believe that human life is a gift from God and it is only because of one’s karma that one is in misery. Euthanasia, as a result, diminishes the worth of human life. Nursing, caregiving and healing are all part of medical ethics, which does not include terminating a patient’s life and hence violating the same. The proponents ignore the fact that if a person is in excruciating pain or is suffering from mental illness, he or she is not in a position to make a free and balanced decision. It could be alleged that excessive influence tainted his consent. Also, recognizing that the concept of “intolerable suffering” is in itself is ambiguous.

The slippery slope argument consists of two possible interpretations, first, acceptance of one type of euthanasia will lead to acceptance of other, even less acceptable forms of euthanasia and the other is that euthanasia and assisted suicide, which would initially be regulated as a last-resort, might become less of a last-resort option over time.


The value of human life does not imply that we must continue to survive in agony and suffering. Given that a person has the right to live a dignified life, he cannot be forced to live in a way that is detrimental to his well-being. It would be inhumane to force a person suffering from an incurable condition to live a terrible life. A terminally sick person should be allowed to choose to end his or her misery and suffering. In reality, these are not situations of extinguishing life, but rather of hastening the process of natural death, which has already begun.

The idea is that the law should allow a terminally ill patient to choose between a protracted and painful death and a rapid and painless death if he or she so wishes and meets the necessary criteria. Medical knowledge is growing in India, as it is in the rest of the globe, and we now have procedures for artificially prolonging life. This may inadvertently extend terminal pain and prove to be extremely costly for the subject’s family. As a result, end-of-life issues are becoming increasingly important ethical considerations in India’s modern medical science. It would be preferable to allow euthanasia just for terminally sick individuals.

The Supreme Court’s decision in 2018[10] gave pro-euthanasia advocates a big boost, albeit there is still a long way to go before it becomes law in the legislature. Furthermore, fears about its misuse remain a key concern that must be addressed before it becomes law in our country. The goal of society is not to serve the interests of individuals, but to provide dignified and peaceful living for all. Now, if a person in excruciating pain is unable to make decisions for himself, his interest will undoubtedly be hampered. It will undoubtedly be a denial of his dignity and human rights in that situation. Article 21 definitely provides for living with dignity in this issue from a legal standpoint. A person has the right to live a life of at least minimal dignity, and if that standard is not met, that person should be given the option to end his or her life.

Author’s Name: Nitya Vashishtha (Bennett University, Greater Noida)

Image Reference

[1] Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, 2011(3) SCALE 298 : MANU/SC/0176/2011

[2] Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs Union Of India (2018)

[3] Basu, D.D., Introduction to the Constitution of India 107, 19th edn., Nagpur: Wadhwa, 2001.

[4] State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Sripati Dubal 1987 Cri.LJ 549

[5] S. 309, Indian Penal Code, 1860 reads as “whoever attempts to commit to suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine.”

[6] Chenna Jagadeeswar v. State of Andhra Pradesh 1988 Cri. LJ 549

[7] Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab AIR 1996 SC 1257

[8] 9 Stone, Julius, Human Law and Human Justice 103, 2nd edn., Delhi: Universal Law Publication Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2004

[9] 2 Parmananda Katara v. Union of India, AIR 1989 SC 2039; Pashim Bengal Khet Majdoor Samiti v. State of West Bengal, (1996) 4 SCC 37; Consumer Education and Research Centre v. Union of India (1995) 3 SCC 42; Kirlosker Brothers Ltd. V. Employees State Insurance Corporation, (1996) 2 SCC 682; State of Punjab v. Mohinder Singh Chawla, AIR 1997 SC 1225.

[10] Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India, 2011(3) MANU/SC/0176/2011

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

Whoops, you're not connected to Mailchimp. You need to enter a valid Mailchimp API key.