Global Press Institute
May 4, 2011
Euthanasia Case Sparks Public Debate in India
MUMBAI, INDIA – For the past 37 years, ArunaShanbaug, 62, has been lying in a vegetative state in Ward No. 4 of government-run King Edward Memorial Hospital, KEM, in Mumbai, India’s most populous city, according to court records recapping a petition by journalist PinkiVirani for Shanbaug’s euthanasia, which judges recently denied.
Shanbaug used to work as a nurse in the same hospital until a hospital janitor strangled her with a dog chain then sodomized her in 1973. The event caused brain damage, according to a hospital neurologist, and Shanbaug has been in a coma ever since.
“I see it more as a matter of conscience than law.”
Dr. Rita Bakshi
She doesn’t weigh much, and her brittle bones could break if her hands or legs get caught under her body the wrong way, according to Virani’s petition. Her skin has become like papier-mâché stretched over a skeleton.Because she can’t move, she is prone to bed sores. Her teeth have decayed, causing her immense pain, according to the petition.Her family abandoned her so the hospital staff takes care of her. Because of the controversy surrounding her case, the door to her ward remains locked.
Euthanasia is considered illegal in India. Although there is no specific law on euthanasia, the Indian Penal Code says that culpable homicide is murder when done with the intention of killing someone.More than 80 percent of Indians, some 830 million people, are practicing Hindus, a religion which prohibits suicide and assisted suicide. But up until a few decades ago, the self-immolation of widows after their spouses’ deaths was prevalent among Hindus, according to various sources. Still, experts say that although opinions of euthanasia among Hindus may vary, concerns about karma, reincarnation and ahimsa, or non-violence, are cited as primary concerns.