Euthanasia – Legal and Ethical Aspects



Euthanasia is one of the issues of debates in the field of Science as well as Law. Euthanasia is a choice between life and death. It affects the Legal and Ethical issues relating to the health of people. This paper aims to discuss the legal and Ethical aspects of Euthanasia, different types of Euthanasia and the practice of Euthanasia among different countries.


Euthanasia also known as Mercy killing refers to an act of killing a person suffering for a disorder or a disease which is incurable, therefore they are allowed to die by withholding all the life support measures.

According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law” which means every person has a right to live a dignified life and the person should be allowed to choose between life and death.

Types of euthanasia:

It involves putting patients who are suffering from terminal issues to death, where the doctors administer lethal dosage of medication for merciful reasons.

When the patient is in a persistent vegetative state the doctors refrain from using the necessary devices or refrain from using the life support measures in order to keep the patient alive.

  • Voluntary Euthanasia

When the patient willing wants to end his life either by Active Euthanasia or Passive Euthanasia.

  • Involuntary Euthanasia

It is an illegal act which involves death of a person against his/her will.

  • Non Voluntary Euthanasia

When a person is not in a state to make a decision about his death and ends his life.


Netherlands was the first country to start the practice of Euthanasia, later on Canada, Columbia, Belgium, Luxemburg, USA and India started the practice of Euthanasia.

India started the practice of Euthanasia after the Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India.  Aruna Shanbaug was a junior nurse at a hospital located in Mumbai, she was sexually assaulted by a ward boy, after which she terminated in a vegetative state, it is a disorder of unconsciousness  where in the patients suffering from severe brain damage are in a state of partial arousal. She remained in this state for 37 years.

After which the Supreme Court of India legalized Euthanasia in the form of Passive Euthanasia.


In India Active Euthanasia is illegal which is considered as a crime under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code which is Punishment for murder or Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code which is punishment for Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder and if the act is Physically assisted suicide then it is a crime under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code which is Abetment of Suicide.

If Euthanasia is made legal then this can be used as a ground for getting out of even petty and simple troubles. Sometimes people suffering from serious diseases which can are curable by medication end their lives due to high cost of the treatments, due to which they feel they are becoming a burden on the family and end their life.

Human rights give everyone the right to avail best medical facilities therefore this practice was legalized. Patients suffering from Chronic or terminal diseases where they are suffering from uncontrollable pain, then they ask for Euthanasia. There are many people who think death is given from god only, and the person has some obligation to fulfill towards the society so the person cannot simply decide to die.

In the case of Nikhil Soni v. Union of India also popularly known as Santhara case, where Santhara means fast unto death which is practice prevalent in the Shvetambara Group of Jain Community. It is believed that when the person’s body is unable to fulfill any purpose of life then the person will obtain moksha by fasting unto death.

Whereas under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, it guarantees and protects the right to life of every individual and the practices prevalent in ancient times cannot violate the right to life of any individual.

In the case of Common Cause Society v. Union of India it was argued on the grounds that the Right to die with dignity be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

It was also contended that Right to die with dignity is inseparable and is a complex part of Article 21.


In present time there are many advancements and scientific techniques introduced to save the lives of patients and also reduce the sufferings they face. Every person has a right to deny and choose the treatment where alternates are also available.

Passive Euthanasia which is made legal as the patient is given relief from the traumas and pains they suffer which are unbearable.

People should be given such an environment to live along with best possible medication so that they don’t feel like ending their lives. The mental state of the patient must be taken into consideration.

 Sources Referred:

Case Laws Referred:

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug v. Union of India

Nikhil Soni v. Union of India

Common Cause Society v. Union of India

Author: Srushti Patwardhan,
Navrachna University

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