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Journo pleads for right to die

Apr 28, 2006 09:33 AM IST India India

New Delhi: Giriraj Prasad Gupta, 79, has had a long life and now wants to die. Gupta, a retired principal living in Jaipur, has filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court and sought permission to end his life if he becomes incapacitated.

Gupta, a freelance journalist, suffers from poor eyesight and hearing, hernia and prostrate. A fracture left him bedridden for months, and he now wants to die peacefully if he falls ill again. The right to live must include the right to die with dignity, he says.

"If I am in a coma and people feel that my survival is not at all possible, then I must be allowed to die with some medicine which may not give me any pain and I may die peacefully," says Gupta.

After recovering from the fracture, Gupta spoke to terminally ill patients and their families. These conversations led him to file the petition.

Gupta's family is shocked by his petition and says they will not allow him to kill himself. His lawyer, N C Goyal, says the petition will help people like his client and settle the debate on euthanasia.

"This matter has also been considered all over the world. This judgment has also been placed before the High Court," says Goyal.

Sociologists, however, are aghast at the thought of euthanasia and say the petition shows the failure of the state, society and family to provide a sense of security among the elderly.

If this continues, then the elderly, who are our social assets, will find no place. They will have no other option than committing suicide or appeal before legal institutions to legitimize mercy killing,” says sociologist Rajiv Gupta.

The euthanasia debate
Euthanasia or mercy killing is an act of ending the life of an individual suffering from a terminal illness or an incurable condition.

Recently, the right to die with human dignity has been allowed in Britain. USA's Michigan State has even a clinic for medically assisted death.

But will India ever allow mercy killing? Battles have been fought over the issue, but there has been no change on court's stand.

Former chess champion 25-year-old K Venkatesh, who was terminally ill, died on December 17, 2005 after a futile wait for the courts to accept his plea for euthanasia. He pleaded so that he could donate his organs.

His eyes were donated after his death but no other organ could be transplanted as the 25 year old had been on a ventilator for a long period. Indian laws allow organ donation only if a person is declared brain dead.

Venkatesh's mother continued the legal battle to amend the Human Organ Transplant Act and legalise euthanasia.

Quoting Venkatesh's case, experts have said the severe paucity of organ donors is a big reason why euthanasia should be legalised.