For a lady who was in a vegetative state for 42 years, shouldn’t she have the right to decide if she wants to be miserable and dependent on others for her daily needs or pass away someplace peaceful?


Aruna Shanbaug, age 66, passed away this morning (18th May), after spending 42 long years of her life in ward number 4 at KEM hospital. Shanbaug was sodomized, raped and strangled at the age of 25 by a ward-boy of the same hospital. The culprit was tried, sentenced and now roams free. But Aruna was subjected to the life where she couldn’t move on her own, couldn’t see, didn’t even know that she was alive. She was blind, in coma, and the last memory she had was of being sodomized, tortured and being strangled.

Why is it then that the High Court refused to let her choose to die? After accepting the petition for the same in 2010 the court rejected her plea the next year. Supreme Court also rejected active euthanasia for Aruna but agreed for passive euthanasia which translates into withdrawing the treatment and not providing food to her that she can’t directly consume. But in Aruna’s case that didn’t mean much apart from maybe increasing her suffering.

I’m not saying that our judicial sysytem is ill founded in its argument. Euthanasia has the possibility to be misused for wrong reasons. But everything has pros and cons. To provide relief to someone who is in miserable situation where every breath the person takes might be painful should be an option if not a right. Why subject someone to such a pain? And if we are helpless to prevent that, least we can do is let the person be relieved of the pain and suffering.

Euthanasia, was and is, a major issue facing our country and many others. As of now, only four European countries (Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) allow for assisted suicide, where lethal doses of killer drugs are given to the patient when they are in terrible pain, and have illnesses that can’t be cured. The decision to die consciously is made by the patient consciously without prompting by people who may gain from their deaths.

Aruna Shanbaug spent almost 2/3rd of her life in a vegetative state. Let her be the reason and her memories the force with which we push our judicial system to put forth a law to help people be relieved of their pain. Of course the process will be slow and gradual and law such as active euthanasia will take time to come in force. Only after each clause has been proposed, studied, revised and sanctioned can this major change be expected. It’s time we pass a proper law on euthanasia with strong safeguards. After all, the Right to Die with Dignity is an inalienable part of the Right to Life. Let Shanbaug be the catalyst to speed up the process. Someone will benefit.