Medical fraternity: Aruna Shanbaug has right to live (Lead)

March 7th, 2011 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai/New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Welcoming Monday’s Supreme Court verdict rejecting a petition for the mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug, the medical fraternity is almost unanimously of the opinion that the nurse, who has been in a “persistent vegetative state” for 37 years after being raped, had a right to live.

Doctors, who voiced concern over possible misuse of mercy killing if allowed, also said that they will not favour even passive euthanasia in Shanbaug’s case.

The Supreme Court Monday rejected a petition for the mercy killing of Aruna Shanbaug, now 63, who has been in a “persistent vegetative state” after being sodomised by a hospital sweeper Nov 27, 1973.

The court, however, permitted passive euthanasia if this was allowed by a high court.

The petition was moved on Shanbaug’s behalf by her friend and social activist Pinki Virani. Shanbaug remains under care in Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEM).

Sanjay Bourde, a surgeon at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital, said that euthanasia should be given only to patients who have multiple complications and are brain-dead.

“I will not advocate euthanasia in Aruna Shanbaug’s case. She is neither on a ventilator nor is her treatment too expensive. All she needs is a little care,” Borude told IANS.

Niranjan Chavan from Lokmanya Tilak General Hospital agreed with this view. He said nobody has the right to take a life.

“If I had to decide, I would decide even against passive euthanasia. Aruna Shanbaug has the right to live till she dies of natural causes,” he said.

According to Pragna Pai, former dean of KEM Hospital, where Aruna worked as a nurse and where she was assaulted, it is a difficult decision to take.

“In this case, keeping her alive is like dragging her. But depriving her of regular food and medical treatment is not fair. I pray she should pass away as peacefully as possible. But as long as she is alive, she should be allowed to live. There is no point in killing her,” she said.

Khozem Pathanwala, a practising physician in Mumbai, said that it is time to let her go.

“She has suffered enough. It is time now that we understand her suffering and release her of the pain that she has undergone for 37 years,” Pathanwala told IANS.

Rishi Panchal, another practising doctor in Mumbai, had a similar opinion.

He said that Shanbaug “has the right to a dignified death as much as she has the right to a dignified life.”

Sanjeev Bagai, chief executive of Delhi’s Batra Hospital and former dean of KEM Hospital, said: “Life should be preserved. The Supreme court decision is right. Very few countries have accepted euthanasia, but India is not for it. I think we have very few and isolated cases of such extreme of medical condition.”

According to Devi Prasad Shetty, leading cardiac surgeon and founder of Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore, “India is not yet mature enough to handle euthanasia cases, primarily because we are only talking about the convenience of looking after somebody.”

“If a patient is brain-dead, I think people will take the advantage. If euthanasia is allowed, it will only be misused,” he told the media.

As for B.K Goyal, dean of Bombay Institute of Medical Sciences, euthanasia is very emotional subject and it varies from patient to patient.

He said: “Euthanasia should be permitted only if it is passive and that too under certain conditions. Like in the case of medical termination of pregnancy, if allowed euthanasia could also be misused.”

Pramila Kushre, a nurse who treated Shanbaug at the KEM, told the media: “I am very happy to know that Aruna is going to live longer because I was very closely attached to her. She responds with a smile whenever one attends her.”

Jyotsna Pandit, president of the Maharashtra unit of Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI), stressed that TNAI will not accept euthanasia.

“The nurses attending Shanbaug have taken very good care of her and have become her relatives. They are committed to her care till her last breath,” she added.

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