Hyderabad: With the Supreme Court intending a debate on passive euthanasia, the issue has once again come to the fore, demanding a comprehensive examination of the subject by the medical fraternity, senior citizens, law makers and the society in general to seriously look at an individual’s right to die.
Just like a person has the right to live, experts say that he also has the right to die with dignity. This is because many patients exist in a vegetative state for years and are a burden not only to the family but in most cases, take them to the brink of poverty.
Many families have lost their savings to pay for the medical expenses of their loved ones in the hope that they will recover. But in many cases this does not happen due to various factors like age, debilitating diseases and terminal illnesses.
Dr Bhaskar Rao, president of All Super Speciality Hospital Association said, “For passive euthanasia, the age of the patient, ability to recover, condition of the disease – whether he is deteriorating or there is some response –have to be first considered by doctors. The patient’s ability to be able to recover to the point of being able to do their daily chores must also be considered. If these stages cannot be achieved, then the family must be consulted and a decision taken.”
Doctors say that there have been many cases wherein they have seen no chance of improvement but their families have not been able to accept the fact that the patient is at end stage of his or her life.
Cardiologist Dr Sunil Kapoor said, “If the patient is not young and has fulfilled all his obligations in life then euthanasia can be considered. We have seen many patients who have been kept on artificial respiratory system for years and in the bargain the whole family suffers not only emotionally but also financially. Family members go into depression and often even become the targets of quacks who promise magical recoveries.”
The best option, according to doctors, is to refer the matter to the ethics committee which is a part of every hospital set up. An ethics committee comprises of doctors and members of the society and their inputs can be taken into account, apart from the consent of the family members.
However, many other doctors feel that euthanasia would allow family members to decide the fate of terminally-ill patients and not give them a chance to recover.
For instance, there have been a few cases of patients suffering from stage 3 and stage 4 cancer who have recovered due to the arrival of new medicines in the market.
Oncologist Dr Mohana Vamsy, Omega Hospitals, said, “Even the most terminally ill have a chance to recover and that must not be taken away from them. We have seen how new drugs, which were tried on terminally ill patients, helped them get back to normal life. It’s not that they lived for years, but a year or so does give many a chance to do what they have not done.”
The research for cancer drugs usually opts for very ill-patients. According to sources, the trial drugs are given for free and the recovery or changes in their body systems are closely monitored.
A section of doctors fear that passive euthanasia will require a strict set of protocols and the term “terminally ill” has to be defined thoroughly to take the step of withdrawing support systems.