‘DAYA-MARAN’ (Euthanasia) AND ‘ICHCHHA-MARAN’ (Willfully embracing a Dignified Death)
[Note – March 2018 – Very recently the Supreme Court of India rendered a very important decision, whereby they have allowed Euthanasia on the basis of an earlier Will made by the patient. The Court has declared that ‘Right to have a dignified Death’ is a natural extension of the ‘Right to life’.
Though this decision of the Supreme Court is subject to certain conditions, it is still an important verdict. However, the subject of ‘Willfully embracing a Dignified Death even though a person is healthy’ is still to be tackled by the Supreme Court of India and / or the Indian Parliament.
On the subject of ‘Euthanasia’ & ‘Willfully embracing an honourable Death’, the present author had written an article in 2016, and had submitted it to a Ministry of the Govt. of India, who had asked for public opinion on the subject of Euthanasia. (Subsequently, the author also posted couple of articles in Marathi, an Indian language).
It will be interesting to read this 2016 article even now, as it discusses some important basic issues related to a ‘Dignified Death’.
It also should be noted that the basic issue raised in this article is applicable everywhere in the world, because whereas the Law may differ from country to country, the tenets of ‘Morality’ are the same world-over].
‘Euthanasia’ has been under great discussion recently, as the Govt. of India is planning to bring out a Law on this subject. The Family Welfare Dept., Govt. of India have asked for public’s views on this subject. In that connection, this brief monograph.
(1). Several people argue that, since one’s birth is not in one’s hands, one’s death too should not be in one’s hands. But there is a fallacy in such thinking. It is no doubt true that one’s birth is not in ones’ hands. But, Man is a ‘thinking-animal’. Man has been awarded intellect, reasoning capability, decision-making ability, and much more. Every man and woman would like to live a ‘Dignified’ life. In the same way, he / she has a right to a ‘Dignified’ Death.
Before we proceed, let us understand the difference between ‘Illegal’ and ‘Immoral’. Let us look at an example to make this point clear. Piracy and ‘Looting other ships’ is clearly an immoral act. But, in medieval era, such looting was sanctioned by European monarchs, and so it was ‘Legal’ as far as the pirate’s country was concerned. Today, looting of ships is not legal internationally, and so the acts of Somalian pirates are not only immoral, but also illegal.
In the same manner, a persons’ choosing own dignified Death has not so far had a Legal approval, and so it is considered illegal. But, is it Immoral? Let us give this poser some deep thought.
So the matter of Euthanasia arises. The Dictionary defines ‘Euthanasia’ as follows:
‘The act or practice of killing (helplessly sick or injured) individuals for reasons of mercy’.
We can call term this act as ‘DAYAMARAN’. (Daya – Mercy. Maran – Death).
This is what the Govt. is proposing now by way of a Law, whereby terminally ill patients can be allowed to die (i.e. have Dignified Death, rather than uselessly prolonging life).
The Govt.is terming this as ‘Passive Euthanasia’.
[For our discussion, let us call this type as ‘Category-A’].
Of course, many a time such a patient may be in Coma, and so, the patient’s near-relatives’ consent, as well as the Doctors’ approval, will be necessary to put that action into effect.
Naturally, Euthanasia is a Moral action, and it will also become LEGAL once a Law is brought in.
Of course, while bring in the Law, the Govt. will have to ensure certain procedures, so that the law is not misused.
I wholehearted support the Law on Passive-Euthanasia, which is to be passed & put into practice.
(2). However, I would like to take this discussion somewhat further.
The Govt. of India is presently, only discussing the matter of ‘passive Euthanasia’, for terminally ill patients & patients in Coma. But what of Terminally ill patients who are fully conscious, who are in their full-senses and awareness, and who consciously want death rather than suffering such as acute, unbearable pain & other indignities like ‘depending on others for their bodily cleanliness & toiletry needs’? Do they not have any control over their life and their Death?
[Here, let us call this as ‘Category-B’].
If such patients give a ‘proper’, duly attested, & legally valid Declaration, they should be legally allowed to pass on from this world in a dignified way.
This is not ‘DayaMaran’ ( Euthanasia), but is ‘IchchhaMaran’ ( Ichchha – Will, Desire. Maran – Death).
(3). The next category is of persons who are today hale & hearty, but who are worried what would happen to them if in future they become ill and their condition becomes like ‘Category-B’ or ‘Category – A’?
[For the present discussion, let us call such persons as ‘Category-C’].
If such persons make a ‘Health Will’, they ought to be allowed to have a dignified death if in future they fall into categories ‘B’ or ‘A’.
Generally a ‘Will’ is made for Financial matters. What is signified by the English word ‘Will’, has been termed in Indian context as ‘Mrityuparta’ (Mrityu – Death. Patra – Letter / A Document). However, it is now termed as ‘IchchhaPatra’. (Ichchha- Will, Desire. Patra – Document).
The above-referred ‘Health Will’, will also give rise, not to ‘DayaMaran’ (Euthanasia), but to ‘IchchhaMaran’ (Ichchha – Will, Desire. Maran – Death).
Here too, legal processes can be laid out, such as Registration of the ‘Health Will’, i.e., ‘IchchhaMaranPatra’ (Ichchha -. Will, desire. Maran- Death. Patra – Document).
The great ancient Indian Epic Mahabharata mentions that Bheeshma (one main character) was ‘IchchhaMarani’ (He who will die of his own will only); and he did die a dignified Death, only when he desired. This is the admired-example from the Great Indian Epic, and people must be given that type of choice.
(4). India has had a great & honourable tradition of ‘Dignified Death’. When people grow old, some of them feel that they have fulfilled the purpose of their life, and can contribute nothing new to the Society. So, they, of their own free will, fast (stop eating) and stop drinking water and any liquids, and pass on from this world after some days. Such an endeavor, in Hindu Tradition, is called ‘Prayopveshan’; and in the Jain Tradition (Jain – An Indian sect), it is called ‘Santhara’.
(There could be some minor differences between the two; but, for our discussion here, we may treat them as similar).
[Here in our discussion, let us call this as ‘Category-D’ ].
Some notable examples of Prayopaveshan are, Veer Savarkar (a great Indian freedom-fighter) & and Acharya Vinoba Bhave (a great Indian philosopher of the modern Era, and a deciple of Mahatma Gandhi).
Similarly there are examples of Santhara from the Jains, particularly Jain Munis (Muni – An ascetic).
Moreover, it not just ’eminent-persons’ who choose ‘Prayopaveshan’ or ‘Santhara’. Even some ordinary persons, jansadharan (common men), choose the path of Prayopaveshan or Santhara. In India, this is an age-old & honuorable Tradition for a Dignified Death.
It may be noted that ‘Category-D’ is the highest level among all four categories.
This type of Death is at the highest Moral Level. The Society too treats persons having carried out Santhara or Prayopaveshan, as persons at a very high Moral pedestal.
Are we going to deny this age-old and honourable practice, and deny persons of very-high moral levels their ‘IchchhaMaran’ (willful dignified Death)?
This type of Honourable & Dignified Death too must be legalized.
There appeared a news-item that the Jain Community has filed a Petition in the Supreme Court of India, that Santhara Death must be treated as legal, (and, not treated as suicide). If that be the case, Prayopaveshan must also be treated at par with Santhara, and treated as Legal. (Perhaps some NGO might make such a [public-interest-application).
Be that as it may, the fact remains that such willful choosing of Death is of the highest Moral Order. And, it ought to be recognized as such. (just as ‘Seppuku’ had been in medieval Japan).
(5). Suicide is, however, outside the purview of the present discussion. In any case, it is illegal.
[Author’s Note of March 2018 – The Govt. of India has informed the Supreme Court that it is planning to bring in a law, whereby suicide will no more be treated as criminal act].
Above, we have discussed FOUR categories of persons, in connection with ‘Honourable Death’, (‘DayaMaran’ or ‘IchchhaMaran’).
None of the Four categories is Immoral; and all FOUR categories ought to be made legal.
In any event, ‘Passive-Euthanasia’ must be made legal immediately. We owe that much to our suffering-fellow-citizens.
[Author’s Note of March 2018 – As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Supreme Court of India has now declared this to be legal, subject to some conditions].
I appeal to every citizen on this, me being not only an educated, serious-thinking, ‘Buddhiwadi’ (rationally thinking) Senior-Citizen, but also one who has watched the demise of a very close family member, my wife Dr. Snehalata, from very close quarters. Even during the last-phases of terminal-illness caused by cancer, she, a social scientist, was intellectually discussing Euthanasia & ‘IchchaMaran’ with the Oncologist Doctor. She whole-hearted supported ‘Ichchha-Maran’ (willfully embracing an honourable & dignified Death). So that makes two of us supporting ‘Ichchha-Maran’.
We desire that everybody would get a legal choice of a ‘Honourable-Death’.
– Subhash S. Naik.