Brutally raped, sodomised, strangled and then living a traumatizing life in semi-vegetative state for the past 40 years – UNIMAGINABLE is the word!! This is the story of 60 year old Aruna Shanbaug, formerly a nurse in Mumbai’s KEM hospital whose life has turned into a question or shall I put it this way whose death has turned into a national debate today! Rejecting a petition for the mercy killing in India of Aruna Shanbaug, the Supreme Court on Monday permitted passive euthanasia if this was allowed by a high court. There are various questions that this case has evoked – Is euthanasia justified? Should mercy killing in India be legalized? Should Aruna live or die??

No matter how hard I try, I find it difficult to take a stand on Aruna Shanbaug’s unfortunate case. Who are we to decide whether she should live or die? No one of us can imagine the pain that Aruna has been undergoing since decades!

Nurses of KEM hospital taking care of Aruna Shanbaug say they love taking care of her! Living with dignity is when you are not burden for those taking care of you and that is exactly Aruna’s case. At a time when Aruna’s family has forgotten her and her brother wishes that god would give her a quick death and deliverance from this ordeal, hats off to the nurses of KEM. The question which arises for those demanding for Aruna’s death is – have they spent 37 years of their life caring for Aruna day and night? Not just as their duty but happily and willingly with love and affection, the medical staff of the KEM Hospital have cared for Aruna Shanbaug for more than three decades. So, if Aruna has a “friend”, it is not Pinki Virani who filed the petition for Aruna’s death but the KEM staff.

But then who knows if every “breath” of Aruna is pleading for her pain to lessen and wanting death soon. Don’t you think she should be put out of misery? If Aruna Shanbaug cannot decide for herself, does anyone else have a right to decide for her either? She should live on till she dies of natural reasons. If a patient’s life has become intolerable, and she freely requests medical assistance to end it, shouldn’t such intervention be allowed? Because she is in pain and the pain that no one other than her can understand! There indeed are two faces to the story and I can’t take sides despite repeated attempts of trying to. But what disturbs me the most is – it is a tragedy that while the woman, who was chained and raped lives a life she obviously doesn’t deserve, the person responsible is living a normal life!

However, I welcome the decision of legalising passive euthanasia by SC as there will be many more cases where you don’t have people like KEM hospital nurses to take care of a patient who is bed ridden for decades!! But in the context of mercy killing in India can someone kill his/her father/mother/brother/sister just because they are in coma?? It is easy said but certainly not possible to do!!

When I saw the visuals of jubilant nurses feeding Aruna Shanbaug with a grain of sugar and celebrating the Supreme Court’s rejection of euthanasia plea, I felt that humanity is not yet gone astray of our nation.  There still are people like the KEM staff who selflessly care for people. All I and you can do is pray for Aruna’s pain to lessen as soon as possible as so many years is no petite phase.

Overview of Aruna Shanbaug Case

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug, an Indian nurse who was at the centre of a court case on euthanasia for the coma she suffered as a result of sexual assault. In 1973, while working as a junior nurse at King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, she was sexually assaulted by a ward boy, Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki, and remained in a vegetative state following the assault. On 24 January 2011, after she had been in this status for 37 years, the Supreme Court of India responded to the plea for euthanasia filed by Aruna’s friend, journalist Pinki Virani, by setting up a medical panel to examine her. The court turned down the mercy killing petition on 7 March 2011. However in its landmark judgment, it allowed passive euthanasia in India. She died from pneumonia on 18 May 2015, after being in a coma for 42 years. – Wikipediai

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