Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Euthanasia: The Right To Die

Year before last, our good Dutch friend Carla, finally asked her doctors in Amsterdam to allow her to die gracefully and with dignity. The Netherlands being one of the world’s most “enlightened” countries allows euthanasia. Our dear friend, who visited us in Delhi many times and always hosted my partner at her home in Amsterdam, for a few days, whenever my partner was on a teaching assignment in The Netherlands, had been suffering from cancer for long years. Year before last, she decided to move on. Two days after her funeral we received a card posted by her well before her passing away, saying how much she had treasured our friendship and how much she loved us. We both wept. Yet, for both of us, Carla was and will always be a symbol of what it means to be brave.

Love of life is intrinsic to us. Even in our worst moments, if we happen to say I wish I were dead and if in that moment, really death were to stare us in the face, we would not walk with death. Not willingly. So when a person/s willingly and in perfect mental health and balance, asks for death, what are the implications?
(a) It is a well thought out decision
(b) They saw it as the best possible option at that moment
(c) They do not want to prolong the illness, terminal or otherwise any further.
(d) They believe that they have had a good share of life; now the body has become a burden to live with
(e) It is decided by the medical fraternity, that the illness is fatal and sooner or later death will come
(f) They do not wish to wait for that 1% miracle that may or may not happen which will turn the table over and suddenly they will survive
(g) They may not have given up on life, but they certainly have given up on the body
(h) They do not want to see themselves in a state where their dignity as a human being is at stake
(i) They believe that life is forever; death of the body does not mean that there is no life in a new body
(j) They loved themselves enough to be compassionate to themselves

Of course, all these above factors stand for someone who can decide to call the shots still. But, what about those who can’t. Those who are lying in a vegetative state, for days/months/years, what would their take be? Here, the family takes the decision. It takes extreme love of your beloved ones to take a decision to stop their suffering by taking them off life suppose systems or many tubes and allow them to pass. All the reasons in my mind which I have listed above, would stand the same ground, only this time it is the family’s decision.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to see Barkha Dutt anchor one of the most fascinating topics in “ We The People” on 1st July, 2007, will have seen the sensitive way in which she handled the subject and the research she did on the subject, which brought across many who had in fact, allowed their loved ones to be taken off Respirators and numerous tubes and pipes, in order that they may pass on peacefully, will agree that the positive note on which the show ended, indicated that many on the show and many viewers, at least me, would welcome Euthanasia in India as well. The Supreme Court is reviewing the matter and judgment is awaited.

For me life has had one big meaning and that is that in this life as a human being I have had a chance to be born with a higher consciousness which I am aware of. I am grateful for the choices I made in my life to walk the unbeaten track and for my mother, who single handedly with the support of her very intellectually active family brought me up in such a way that I will always value the gift of life that she gave me (she could have decided not to have me, you know!) and her brave, uncompromising way of life. She gave me a Map of Life I would have to draw on my own, but she showed me how. As a philosopher, I do not believe that this is, was or will be my only life. Each life is an opportunity to refine and in that way create the next. And so it has been. But, for those who believe that there is only one life to live, the choice of euthanasia may become difficult. Here in India, in the midst of ages of philosophy and ancient religion, we know that we are not our body or our mind. So if we decide to give up this tired machine called body, can we really say, we have committed suicide or the doctor has committed homicide? At least in our country, we must prove that we have a more profound knowledge of life that encompasses the right to euthanasia, if a situation arises when the body must be given its right to rest forever.

Life will go on. To the next.

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