Euthanasia – ‘Prolonged Life’ or ‘Prolonged Death’
Euthanasia means ‘Mercy Killing’ or ‘bringing about death of a sufferer’.Prolonging life is right but prolonging death is not right.
Today, the medical science is serving like a magic bullet. Thanks to all the technological advancements in the field of medicine, people are living longer and the average age of mankind has increased. In case of terminally ill patients, there are life-supporting systems which can keep them alive. It is a blessing, but only to the extent to which their pain and suffering threshold is not crossed. This pain threshold varies from individual to individual. If one desires to increase this threshold, there should be no objection. But if it comes out of compulsion, then the individual’s choice should be given an unbiased hearing before coming to a decision. It needs to be understood if it is used for ‘Prolonging Life’ or ‘Prolonging Death’. The prolonged years are supposed to have life in them. Life does not mean ‘Not Dying’ or ‘Going through the process of breathing’ through artificial support systems or ventilators. Our current medical interventions are based upon a mechanical view of life that visualizes human body as a physical machine where consciousness has no role. It is to be noted that keeping an individual’s heart beating and blood circulating in the body through life support systems does not ensure the health of the consciousness of that person.
Here we need to understand the viewpoint of life through Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is the science of life which has a holistic approach to health. It says life is a sum total of physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Life is an integration of body, mind and soul. Imbalance in any of these is detrimental to health as well as life. Adding years to life and adding life to years is the essence of Ayurveda, thus it teaches us to live a healthy, meaningful, happy and fruitful life while at the same time prepares us to embrace death with an enlightened mind. It tells us that death is not something to be afraid of but is an inevitable part of life because MAN IS A MORTAL BEING.
Ayurveda has always focused on individuality. It says every single individual is different from the other. Every individual has the freedom to choose his health, his lifestyle and make his own choices of life. When you have the right to live then you should have the right to choose your death as well.
In ancient India, elders used to bless by saying ‘SHATAYU BHAVA’, which means ‘May you live a hundred years’. But then, they meant ‘LIVE’ and not prolong death. LIVE a life – a happy life, a life well lived with dignity – like Zohra Sehgal. She died at the age of 102yrs. People like her, live in their life as well as their death. They do not suffer the torture of prolonged death but they happily embrace death on their way to prolonged life. They do not need artificial life support systems to make them live, but they have their inbuilt natural life support systems within them which help them embrace life and welcome death with open arms, at the time they themselves feel appropriate. They do not mourn their death but are aware that they are mortal beings. Such people exemplify life when they live and death when they leave the world.
World is a complex place to live in. The complexities distort some simple choices of life and death. Yes, complexities are part of our life process and should be honored, but losing simplicity in the depths of the former is not done. We find that manageable approaches of life tend to lose their identity in this complex scenario.
It has always been a challenging job for any government to govern a vast country like India – with all its social complexities. It is not easy to take the decisions of changing any of the existing laws including that on Euthanasia. All the pros and cons are to be judiciously considered and a common consensus is required. Though each and every citizen is supposed to respect the laws of the country, we cannot dispose off the fact that laws have the spaces which can be misused for personal and self-centered interests.
Having said that I believe that individual choice specifically in case of Euthanasia does matter.