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‘DAYA-MARAN’ (Euthanasia) AND ‘ICHCHHA-MARAN’ (Willfully Embracing a Dignified Death)
‘DAYA-MARAN’ (Euthanasia) AND ‘ICHCHHA-MARAN’ (Deliberately 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 in great discussion recently, since the Government. of India is planning to enact a law on the subject. Department of Family Welfare, Govt. of India have sought public views on the subject. In this regard, this short monograph.
(1). Some people argue that since one’s birth is not in one’s hands, one’s death should not be in one’s hands either. But there is a mistake in such thinking. It is undoubtedly true that one’s birth is not in one’s hands. But man is a ‘thinking animal’. Man is endowed with intellect, the ability to reason, the ability to make decisions and much more. Every man and woman would like to live a ‘dignified’ life. Likewise, he/she has the right to a ‘Dignified’ Death.
Before we proceed, let us understand the difference between ‘Illegal’ and ‘Immoral’. Let’s look at an example to make this point clear. Piracy and ‘plundering other ships’ is definitely an immoral act. But, in the Middle Ages, such robbery was sanctioned by European monarchs, and so was ‘Legal’ as far as pirates were concerned. Today, the robbery of ships is not internationally legal, and thus the actions of Somali pirates are not only immoral, but also illegal.
In the same way, a person’s own choice of Death with Dignity has so far not had legal approval and is thus considered illegal. But is it immoral? Let’s give this poser a deep thought.
Thus arises the issue of Euthanasia. The dictionary defines ‘Euthanasia’ as follows:
‘The act or practice of killing individuals (sick or wounded without help) for reasons of mercy’.
We can term this act as ‘DAYAMARAN’. (Daya – Mercy. Maran – Death).
This is what the government. is now proposing by law that terminally ill patients may be allowed to die (ie have a dignified Death, instead of prolonging useless lives).
The government calls this ‘passive euthanasia’.
[For our discussion, let us call this type as ‘Category-A’].
Of course, many times such a patient may be in a coma, and so the consent of the patient’s relatives, as well as the approval of the Doctor, will be necessary to put it into effect.
Of course, Euthanasia is a Moral action and will also become LEGAL once a law is introduced.
Of course, while bringing the Law, the Govt. will have to provide certain procedures, so that the law is not misused.
I wholeheartedly support the Passive Euthanasia Law, which will be passed and implemented.
(2). However, I would like to take this discussion a little further.
The Government of India is currently only discussing the issue of ‘Passive Euthanasia’ for terminally ill and comatose patients. But what about terminally ill patients who are fully conscious, who are in their full senses and consciousness, and who consciously want death rather than suffering such as acute, excruciating pain and other indignities such as ‘depend on others for their bodily cleanliness and toilet needs’? Do they not have any control over their own life and death?
[Here, let us call this as ‘Category-B’].
If such patients give a ‘proper’ Declaration, duly attested and legally valid, they should legally be allowed to pass away from this world with dignity.
This is not ‘DayaMaran’ (Euthanasia) but it is ‘IchchhaMaran’ (Ichchha – Will, Desire. Maran – Death).
(3). The other category is of persons who are cordial and cordial today, but who worry what would happen to them if in the future they fall ill and their condition becomes like ‘Category-B’ or ‘Category A’?
[For the present discussion, let us call such persons as ‘Category-C’].
If these persons make a ‘health will’, they should be allowed to die with dignity if in the future they fall into categories ‘B’ or ‘A’.
Generally a ‘will’ is made for financial matters. What is meant by the English word ‘Will’, is called in the Indian context as ‘Mrityuparta’ (Mrityu – Death. Patra – Letter / A Document). However, it is now called ‘IchchhaPatra’. (Ichchha- Will, Desire. Patra – Document).
The “Will of Health” mentioned above will also create, not “DayaMaran” (Euthanasia) but “IchchhaMaran” (Ichchha – Will, Desire. Maran – Death).
Even here legal processes can be filed such as, registration of ‘health will’ ie ‘IchchhaMaranPatra’ (Ichchha -. Will, wish. Maran- Death. Patra – Document).
The great ancient Indian epic Mahabharata mentions that Bheeshma (a major character) was ‘IchchhaMarani’ (One who will die by his own will); and he died a dignified Death, only when he wished. This is the example admired by the Great Indian Epic and people should be given that kind of choice.
(4). India has had a great and honorable tradition of ‘Death with dignity’. When people get old, some of them feel that they have fulfilled their life’s purpose and cannot contribute anything new to Society. So they, of their own free will, fast (stop eating) and stop drinking water and liquids and leave this world after a few days. Such an effort, in the Hindu tradition, is called ‘Prayopveshan’; and in the Jain Tradition (Jain – An Indian sect), it is called ‘Santhara’.
(There may be some minor differences between the two; but, for our discussion here, we can 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 disciple of Mahatma Gandhi).
Similarly there are examples of Santhara from Jains, especially Jain Munis (Muni – An ascetic).
Moreover, it is not only ‘prominent persons’ who opt for ‘Prayopaveshan’ or ‘Santhara’. Even some commoners, jansadharan (common men), choose the path of Prayopaveshan or Santhara. In India, this is a centuries-old and revered tradition for a dignified death.
It may be noted that ‘Category-D’ is the highest level among the four categories.
This kind of death is at the highest moral level. Even the Society treats the persons who have performed Santhara or Prayopaveshan, as persons on a very high moral pedestal.
Shall we deny this ancient and honorable practice and deny persons of very high moral standards their ‘IchchhaMaran’ (death with dignity)?
Even this kind of Honorable and Dignified Death should be legalized.
A news surfaced that the Jain Community has filed a Petition in the Supreme Court of India, that Santhara’s Death should be treated as legal, (and, not treated as suicide). If so, Prayopaveshan should also be treated at par with Santhara and treated as Legal. (Perhaps an NGO can make one [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 relation to the ‘Honorable Death’, (‘DayaMaran’ or ‘IchchhaMaran’).
None of the Four Categories is immoral; and ALL FOUR categories should be made legal.
In any case, ‘Passive Euthanasia’ should be legalized immediately. We owe so much to our fellow sufferers.
[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 for this, as I am not only an educated, serious-minded, ‘Buddhiwadi’ (rational-minded) senior citizen, but also one who has witnessed the death of a very close family member, to my wife dr. Snehalata. , from very close neighborhoods. Even during the last stages of terminal illness caused by cancer, she, a social scientist, was intellectually discussing Euthanasia & ‘IchchaMaran’ with the oncologist. She wholeheartedly supported ‘Ichchha-Maran’ (deliberately embracing an honorable and dignified Death). So that makes two of us to support ‘Ichchha-Maran’.
We want everyone to have a legal choice of an ‘Honorable Death’.
– Subhash S. Naik.
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