While it is illegal in most countries, a few countries have allowed mercy killing under specific conditions.
The case of Aruna Shanbaug (63), a former nurse who remains in coma for over 37 years has attracted wide public attention in India.
However, there have been a few other instances in India where mercy killing was sought.
The Supreme Court Monday rejected a petition for the mercy killing of Shanbaug, who has been in a ‘persistent vegetative state‘ for the past 37 years after being sodomised by a hospital sweeper Nov 27, 1973. The court permitted passive euthanasia if this was allowed by a high court. Shanbaug remains under care in Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital.
Jeet Narayan of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh in 2008 pleaded for euthanasia for his four sons – Durgesh (22), Sarvesh (18), Brijesh (13) and Sushil (10) – all crippled and paralysed below the neck. Narayan wrote to the president of India, but his plea was rejected.
Dilip Machua (30), a slag picker from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand who was paralysed due to an accident in November 2008, wrote to President Pratibha Patil for mercy death. He died later.
Some of other famous euthanasia cases in the world
Australia: John Whylie – died from an overdose of Nembutal, a powerful sleeping pill, in Sydney. His wife Shirley Justins and friend Caren Jenning were accused of assisting his suicide-cum-murder.
Canada: Sue Rodriguez, popularly known as ‘Victoria woman’ and diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1991, asked legislators in 1992 to change the law banning assisted suicide. The Supreme Court rejected her plea, but she committed suicide in 1994 with the help of an anonymous doctor.
England: Anthony Bland, in March 1993, ended up in persistent vegetative state after suffering severe brain damage in the Hillsborough football stadium stampede. After three years, a court allowed the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment on him. He was the first patient in British legal history to be allowed to die.
United States: Nancy Cruzan of Missouri had a major car accident in 1983. She continued to be fed through a surgically-implanted gastrostomy tube. Nearly eight years after the accident, in 1990 a Missouri circuit court allowed the removal of her artificial feeding system. Within two hours after the ruling, Cruzan’s doctor removed the tube and she died.