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Euthanasia is a concept of mercy killing. The research paper focuses on explaining the accurate meaning of the term i.e., its theory perspective and practical perspective. as the concept is infamous so that there is no misuse of the same. As it is really important to know the cause of its practice. The concept is very much debatable which means that its legality varies from case to case. Euthanasia is taken into consideration only when a person is suffering from such severe pain which is not letting him live his life and is incurable. In such situation the person who is close to him who cannot be supposed to take his life in any circumstances is believed to use concept of euthanasia for ending the suffering of the person. The paper, therefore, explains in which situation who all can be trusted to practice such power or do mercy killing. The difference between suicide and euthanasia has been explained so that a person committing suicide cannot be spared as the former is a crime in the eyes of law as every citizen is provided with the right to life but not right to end one’s own life.


Franci’s bacon is said to use the term for the first time i.e., he can be said to be pioneer of the doctrine of euthanasia. Which is a combination of two Greek works which conceptually means to have good death. Right to life is provided to every individual as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. Though right to end one’s own life is not given to any individual and upon that it is a criminal offence under Section 309 of Indian Penal Code which is corresponded with simple imprisonment which may extend to one year or with fine or both. Thought the concept of euthanasia is different from suicide many a times people use this concept interchangeably. As both are for taking away life of a person intentionally, though in euthanasia the person is suffering from incurable pain but in suicide the reason may vary which gives leverage of using unreasonable reasons. As these are the only two ways by which a person can end his life. Right to life is an extraordinary right as it cannot be taken away from a person in any situation. Therefore, protect for the same is provided by criminalizing the concept of self-killing or suicide.

Types of euthanasia

There are majorly four types of euthanasia namely: Active euthanasia, passive euthanasia, voluntary euthanasia, non-voluntary euthanasia.

(1) Active euthanasia: it is when the life of the person suffering from incurable pain or disease life is taken away from giving overdose of the drugs in the blood by using injection by the doctor who has full knowledge about the condition of the person. Though sometimes a situation may arise wherein the person who is suffering from the pain is unable to give the consent. As this can be practiced by voluntary and involuntary consent of the person. In this type the life of the person is taken away immediately by overdose of drugs.

(2) Passive euthanasia: this type of euthanasia is slower in procedure or in practice to active euthanasia as in this the death is caused intentionally to the person suffering from incurable pain or disease by withdrawing all the necessary life support from the person which are important for his survival such as: food, water, medication etc. it is considered to be non-aggressive in nature as it is done slowly and withdrawal of the life support is done.

(3) Voluntary euthanasia: As the word itself suggest that the life of the person suffering is taken away by taking his consent. As he is well aware of his situation as disclosure of the core information regarding his medical condition has been provided to him by the doctor and he does not want to suffer any more.

(4) Non-voluntary euthanasia: In this type of euthanasia the person is unconscious and is not in the condition to give consent therefore, someone else who can be entrusted with his life i.e., his family members or life partner is asked for the condition after full knowledge of the medical condition of the person is provided to them.

Situation in different countries

● Netherland:

The concept was considered to be revolutionary in Netherland as the medical practitioner and legal professional came together and asked for a strict guideline for legalizing the concept of euthanasia as without a guideline it will be used vaguely by the people. Hence fore, in 2001 the legislation of Netherland came with guidelines and euthanasia has been legalized thereby.

● USA:

The situation in the USA is not clear as the right has been provided to the citizens by the constitution though there have been many instances where the court has taken a different view. As the measure is an important one but cannot be used irrationally therefore to ensure that there is no vague use the people of the country need to be educated for raising the awareness as it is a critical right which cannot be given to the citizen without setting any reasonable restriction to it.

● Australia:

The legislation to legalize euthanasia has been passed in Australia in twentieth century. Since then, it has been made legal there. There was a device made there which produced carbon monoxide gas which takes away the life of people. The device was available in almost all the retail shops.

● Belgium:

In 2002 the government passed a legislation in which euthanasia was legalized as there has been demand from people of the country to make it legal so that the person’s suffering can be minimized as if a person is unable to live his life peaceful or to its fullest there needs to be an option for him to get away with such life.

● India:

The concept of euthanasia is criminalized it India. As there is no legislation which permits the practice expressly though there is law which prohibits the same under the constitution Article 21 that is right to life prohibits right to life or it can be considered in contravention to it and under Section 306 and 309 it is considered to be a criminal offence. It has been interpreted in many cases by the Supreme court of India that euthanasia is illegal in India.

Case laws

State of Maharashtra v. Maruti Shripati Dubal[1]- it was a case of Bombay where the High court of the state held that the person who has a life has all the rights and freedom to end or dispose of it according to one's will. Therefore, the right to dispose of one’s life is an inseparable right to be practiced.

P. Rathinam v. Union of India[2] - In this case the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Maharashtra High Court that a person has full right to dispose of his life if in case he is unable to enjoy it to its fullest or is in pain, or a disease caused to him is incurable which would ultimately lead to death. Though the plaintiff also asked for laying law which would legalize the concept of euthanasia, but the court did not make it legal.

Smt. Gian Kaur vs The State of Punjab[3]- this was a bench of five judges where the Supreme Court by making a decision overruled the judgment held in P. Rathinam v. Union of India case by the court stating that Article 21 of the constitution that is right to life does not include the concept of right to die and is considered to be contravention to the former as if people will have right to die it would infringe right to life of people. Therefore, the court held concept of euthanasia to be illegal in India.

Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union of India & Ors- this is the landmark judgement wherein the court held that passive euthanasia is legalized not with a legislation but guideline by supreme court.

● Guideline: the decision of ending one’s life can be given by the parent, spouse or next friend of the person who has full knowledge with bona fide intention.

● Can be practiced by getting prior approval of High court


There is no law passed by the legislation regarding euthanasia in India though after looking upon series of case regarding it the Supreme court of India has legalize or set a guideline wherein passive euthanasia has been explained and guideline regarding its practice has been given. For the permission petitioner needs to apply in High court where the bench of minimum two judges will review it by taking into consideration the opinion of a committee of three doctors who needs to be nominated by the medical professionals. After the procedure is done the final report is to be made by the court, which is to be sent to the family, relative or in case of absence of first two to the next friend. The verdict by the High Court should be considered as final. Though there is no law for the active euthanasia and the court too does not provide any guideline for the same only passive euthanasia is legal in India.

[1] 1987 (1) BomCR 499, (1986) 88 BOMLR 589 [2] 1994 AIR 1844, 1994 SCC (3) 394 [3] 1996 AIR 946, 1996 SCC (2) 648

This article is written by Shikha Singh of Amity Law School, Noida.

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